HELENA — The Montana Department of Livestock has wrapped up a year-long project: re-recording all of the brands used by ranchers across the state.
Every 10 years, state law requires the department to have brand owners confirm that they want to keep their brands active. Last year, producers were asked to pay a $175 fee to re-record their brands for the next ten years.
In Montana, a brand is the primary way of demonstrating who owns a livestock animal.
However, Ethan Wilfore, administrator of the department’s Brands Enforcement Division, says they’re much more than just an official marking.
“It’s part of the culture in this state, right?” he said. “I think folks place a lot of value on brands, especially if they have brands that have been in the family for a long time, and it’s a family heirloom and there’s a lot of tradition there.”
On January 1, 2021, the Department of Livestock had 55,567 brands on record.
By December 31, about 47,660 of those were re-recorded – including more than 3,000 transferred to new owners. The department also processed about 1,000 new brands.
“The number of brands that we recorded, I think, is pretty consistent to what we saw in 2011,” said Wilfore.
The Brands Enforcement Division is responsible for keeping records on livestock ownership, tracking livestock movements and doing law enforcement for livestock crimes. Wilfore says it’s important for them to have an up-to-date idea of which brands are and aren’t still being used.
If you re-recorded a brand in 2021, you should have received a new brand certificate in the mail. If you haven’t received one, or if you’re not sure if your brand has been re-recorded, you can call the Brands Enforcement Division at (406) 444-2045.
Anyone who held a brand that is now inactive has until April 1 to apply for it again – but it will be processed as a new brand, and there’s no guarantee it will be reissued. After that, the Department of Livestock will take applications from anyone for the brands that are still inactive.
Wilfore said the most likely reason that someone reapplying for an inactive brand wouldn’t have it reissued is that it is deemed too similar to an active brand.
You can find more information about brands on the Montana Department of Livestock’s website.