Monday, July 12, 2010

In Colorado, cattle ranchers' brands are victims of downturn and development

Ranches across the country have closed during the recession, but in Colorado a different facet of the livestock industry is increasingly up-for-sale: cattle brands. "In Colorado, a brand is private property that can be bought or sold. Some are priced as low as $500. Others, like a set auctioned for charity, fetch as much as $44,000," Colleen O'Connor of The Denver Post reports. "Just as the number of ranches is dwindling, so are the brands that go with them. Currently, there are 32,609 registered brands." Despite a grace period that lasted more than three years, 4,000 brands were canceled on July 1 because owners didn't pay the 2007 assessment fee. (Post photo by R.J. Sangosti of Dyekman family brand, which was first recorded in 1885 and is for sale)

"Colorado is developing its ranches," state Brand Commissioner Rick Wahlert told O'Connor. "They're being sold and subdivided, and all of a sudden, you have people who don't need brands." Other ranchers with several brands are cutting costs by selling one or two. Assessment fees have nearly doubled from $125 in 2002 to $225 today. "One reason the fee was raised is because we're a totally cash-funded agency, through inspection fees and brand-assessment fees," Wahlert explained.

"Those 4,000 or so canceled brands don't automatically hit the market, to be scooped up by intrepid seekers of brands that are historic or rare or happen to match their initials," O'Connor writes. They will be kept on the books for three years, "so it could be possible they might be reinstated," Wahlert said. Another 148 brands are currently for sale with prices varying based on demand and number of characters used. The oldest brand on the books, registered in 1884, belongs to John Sheriff of Hot Sulphur Springs, who told O'Connor he doesn't appreciate the fee increase, but has no intention of letting his brand go. (Read more)

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