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Published February 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

Brands: A part of history

Although recorded beginning in the 1800s, animal brands still serve the same purpose today they did back then: To prove ownership of an animal. Today there are more than 22,000 brands registered in the state.

Although recorded beginning in the 1800s, animal brands still serve the same purpose today they did back then: To prove ownership of an animal. Today there are more than 22,000 brands registered in the state.

In the 1930s, the Packers and Stockyards Administration authorized the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association to inspect cattle for brands, but the entire state wasn’t authorized for brand inspection until 1953, according to NDSA information.

The state handled all brand recording until 1993, when the responsibility was handed over to the NDSA, said Keely Spilde, brand recorder and animal ID coordinator for the association.

“In our office we have a brand book that dates back to 1892,” Spilde said. “At that time it wasn’t required by any means, but that was the first actual record of brands being recorded.”

The association mostly handles brands from cattle, horses and mules, though she said they handle other animals as well.

While livestock theft was originally a concern, it isn’t much of a concern today and brands are utilized more for open-range issues, banking issues and co-mingling concerns.

To register a brand, those interested must first choose an image, though only certain images are approved of by the NDSA, Spilde said.

“If you have symbols, or numbers or figures that we approve of, you can pretty much come up with any configuration of them that you’d like,” Spilde said.

Spilde said once a new brand is submitted to the association, it is then compared to other brands already recorded, in what she calls a “conflict check,” to make sure the brand doesn’t already exist or is too close to another brand.

Dickinson resident Donna Havelka said her family has a number of brands registered, with some going back several years.

One, an especially old brand passed down by her family members, is being kept up by herself and her sister, Mary.

“It’s probably one of the earliest brands in the brand book,” she said. “We’ve just maintained it.”

Havelka’s grandfather had a brand recorded in the 1902 book.

Two producers can have the same brand, but will have to put them on different locations on the animal, she added.

North Dakota requires brands to be renewed every five years, and, by law, brands will expire after Dec. 31. Spilde said it’s also important brand owners make sure their address is correct to ensure their renewal paperwork gets mailed to them. Failure to re-register a brand but continue to use it is a felony, she added.

A producer allowing their renewal to lapse happens frequently, Spilde said.

Brands that are not renewed within the brand-renewal period, Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, may not be eligible for renewal due to potential conflicts with other recorded brands.

Though hot-iron brands — standard or electric — are the only brands recognized in the state on cattle, freeze brands, done with liquid nitrogen, are recognized on horses, also.

Spilde said if a brand owner’s address has changed since 2005, he or she should call the NDSA at 701-223-2522 or e-mail brands@ndstockmen.org to update it.

The association offers an online brand book at: www.ndstockmen.org.

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