Information to crimestoppers solves livestock offenses

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 7, 2005
by WLJ
The shooting of four cows in north-central Montana was recently solved with information provided through the Montana Livestock Crimestoppers program and the local sheriff's office.
The shooting of domestic livestock is just one of the crimes Montana producers face, according to Jack Wiseman, Brands Enforcement Administrator with the Montana Department of Livestock. Others include the alteration of a brand on an animal and theft of livestock from the field or from a sale written with a bad check. The Livestock Crimestoppers program can help solve many of these types of crimes if people are aware of the program and report suspicious activity.
Initiated in 1983, the Montana Livestock Crimestoppers was the first Crimestoppers program focused on livestock crimes.
"Similar to other Crimestoppers programs around the country, this one relies on citizens to help halt the incidence of theft and vandalism on farms and ranches," Wiseman said.
Another component to fighting livestock crimes is proper branding. In eastern Montana, livestock producers reported cows missing when they removed them from leased pasture. Upon investigation, the cows were discovered with altered brands mixed in with another herd.
"The main reason livestock should be branded is to prove ownership," Wiseman said. "Branded livestock provide law enforcement with a permanent mark that helps them determine ownership and trace back missing or stolen livestock."
Hot iron branding is a permanent means of identifying ownership. Attempts may be made to alter a hot iron brand, but it cannot be removed.
There are 15 states with brand enforcement programs, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Theft of livestock is greatly reduced in Montana because of the strict regulations in place for movement of livestock. The Brands Enforcement division of the DOL includes 18 district investigators who are law enforcement personnel. The DOL has 26 certified law enforcement personnel.
In Montana, livestock must be inspected or permitted before crossing a county line, at change of ownership or at slaughter.
"Selling livestock isn't much different than selling a car or pickup," Wiseman said. "The owner has to prove ownership in order for the transaction to take place."
Stray cattle that bear unreadable brands are sold and the proceeds are held at the DOL pending proper proof of ownership. If the owner cannot be identified, the money goes into the estray account to be used for the Montana Livestock Crimestoppers program.
Brands are recorded in the offices of the DOL, and a brand usually remains in the same family for generations. Currently, there are approximately 60,000 brands in Montana. Brands must be recorded and renewed every 10 years. The next re-record year is 2011.
"There are some things that livestock producers can do to help limit crimes," Wiseman said. "Watch for strange vehicles in your area and get descriptions, license plate numbers and the time and date you observed these vehicles; brand livestock clearly; keep a close count on your livestock and post the property that livestock are branded and can be identified; check your herd frequently and place catch pens away from the road."
Producers and others are encouraged to report suspicious activities regarding livestock to Montana Livestock Crimestoppers 1-800-503-6084. — WLJ