So you’re a rough and tough cowboy/cowgirl, or you’re a city slicker wanting to get back to your Texas roots, and you’ve decided to get you some livestock.
You know from the movies that you’re supposed to “brand” your livestock, but you don’t know where to start. You’ve already got plenty of questions about branding.
Do you have to brand your livestock? Can you put whatever mark you want on your livestock? Where do you get your brand from? What if someone else already uses the brand you want?
How Do I Brand?
Modern technology has moved from the heating of an iron brand in a campfire then sticking the glowing metal to the animal’s hindquarters. These advancements include freeze branding, ear tags, ear notching, tattooing, or even electronic tags. However, if you still have the urge to do it like you’ve seen in the movies, using a hot brand is still allowed.
If you have cattle, hogs, sheep, or goats in Texas, you must use earmarks, brands, tattoos or electronic devices, and they must differ from those used by your neighbors. However, you have a little more leeway in identifying your horses.
Cattle must be branded or marked before they turn one year old. Hogs, sheep, and goats must be earmarked before they reach six months of age.
Should I Register My Brand?
Brands must be registered with the county clerk in the county where the animals are located, which can be multiple counties. The clerk is required to keep records of the marks and brands of each person who applies. You must re-register your mark every 10th year. The State of Texas has a designated start time and a registration end date every 10 years.
You and another ranch can use the same brand, but in a different location on the animal, and still both have valid brands; as long as they are registered with the County Clerk by the registration deadline. If there is a question as to who a mark belongs to, the clerk must check the registration and the person who has been using the mark the longest will be entitled to it.
Does Anyone Really Police Brands?
Texas has twenty-nine commissioned peace officers who serve as special rangers under the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). These rangers investigate agricultural criminal cases. These Investigators are stationed all over Texas and Oklahoma and they monitor livestock sales, determine ownership when strays are found, educate, and pursue white collar criminals who commit fraud in the agriculture industry. The TSCRA’s website can help you design, read, search, and file your brand. You can even use it to report a stray.
Can I Face Criminal Liability for Improper Branding?
There are a few ways that you can be criminally charged regarding brands in Texas. These include using a mark that is not properly recorded, altering an existing mark or brand on an animal without having changed the recorded mark, or failing to designate to the clerk where the animal will be branded or marked. These offenses are generally just Class C Misdemeanors and are only punishable by a fine up to $500.
However, you could face felony charges if you reproduce in any manner, remove, or destroy any registered mark without consent. Also, buying, selling, trading, or transporting by highway any animal with a mark or aiding in a commission of any of these acts, without the consent of the owner of the animals, could bring about felony charges with imprisonment of up to 12 years.
–Authored by Emily D. Walterscheid
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479