Legal Issues - Branding Inspectors

Most western states have particular requirements in regards to the sale, purchase or transport of livestock within each state and across state lines. What follows is an overview of Colorado's requirements and a few pointers in regards to buying livestock in other states to transport into Colorado.

The State Board of Stock Inspection is charged with the protection of the Colorado livestock industry. The first thing their emplyees will do is certify that the shipper or seller is the legal owner before issuing any certificates. Certain things to remember:

  • Inspection is required for sale or movement, even if previous parties did not comply the last time the animal was sold or transported.
  • Inspection is required whether or not the animal is branded.
  • Inspection is required on all horses, cattle, mules and donkeys. Registration papers (or the lack thereof) does not exempt registration.
  • In this industry, the definition of a brand is a permanent mark on the hide of an animal registered in any state as a livestock brand. Tattoos don't count.
  • Inspection is required at the point of origin unless released by the local inspector.

An inspection is required every time a horse, cow, mule or donkey is sold or bought or when any change of ownership occurs, regardless of whether or not the animal is transported before or after the change of ownership. If livestock is to be transported more than 75 miles within the state, it must be inspected. Every time livestock leaves the state, it must be inspected. Horse owners can get permanent travel cards for their horses from their local inspector and not have to be inspected every time they move their horse(s).

Any time livestock is transported on a public road, proof of ownership of the stock must be available for inspection by the Colorado State Patrol, local law enforcement or a state brand inspector. If the livestock carries your registered brand, that is proof enough. Commercial livestock haulers must have a "Bill of Lading" that specifies point of origin, number of head, sex, color, and hot iron brands, and must be signed by the owner or agent of the stock, even if no inspection is required. Anyone other than the legal owner who is transporting animals should have a letter or note from the owner authorizing the transport together with any required inspection certificates. Any livestock crossing a state line must be accompanied by a current health certificate.

Failure to comply with Colorado Brand Law is at least a Class I misdemeanor and could escalate to being a felony. Penalties start with a minimum $250 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail for the first offense.

Buying Livestock Out of State

When buying animals out of state, you need to check what that state's inspection requirements are before buying and transporting livestock back to Colorado. In some states, you can't get a certified inspection because those states don't have an inspection law. But you must always get a valid bill of sale and a health certificate when buying animals in no-inspection states. The requirements of a legal bill of sale are:

  • Seller's name.
  • Buyer's name
  • Complete description of the stock purchased: this should include number of head, sex, color, markings, breed, registration numbers, and hot iron brands. For cattle this also includes ear marks, waddles and dewlaps.
  • Signature of seller.
  • Signature of buyer and the signature of a witness who resides in the county where the transaction took place. logo
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