The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association has voted to stop pushing for province-wide, mandatory brand inspection.
In a hotly debated resolut ion at the group’s recent annual general meet ing, voices calling for Manitoba to join Alberta and Saskatchewan in maintaining brand inspectors were outnumbered by those who argued that such a system was too costly, unnecessary and ineffective at preventing cattle thefts.
The reversal came after last year’s AGM saw members approve a motion calling for brand inspection.
Felix Boileau said the resolution to discontinue calls for the anti-theft system was the main reason he drove 250 miles to attend the meeting. He added that a microchip inserted under the skin might serve the same purpose, and meet the needs of the national traceability scheme at the same time.
“Also, I have no intention of starting to brand,” said Boileau. “It’s too much stress and extra handling of cattle.”
Joe Bouchard, former president of the MCPA, argued that the loss of 55 to 60 head of cattle confirmed stolen or missing per year was not worth the estimated $1-million annual cost of having brand inspectors on hand every time cattle change hands.
He also noted that the majority of cattle producers in Manitoba no longer brand their cattle, and questioned the wisdom of making them pay for a system that offered them no benefit.
“Branded cattle are also stolen. A thief is a thief. If there is a will, there’s a way,” said Bouchard. “Two courts in Alberta have already ruled that a brand does not prove ownership. A lot of returned cattle were merely misspelled names on the manifest; they were never stolen.”
Don Ransom, speaking in favour of brand inspection, said that he thought the matter was settled at last year’s AGM, and wondered why there was a bid to scuttle it.
Ransom said he used to be opposed to mandatory brand inspection but changed his mind in light of the numbers of cattle gone missing in recent years.
Major Jay Fox, current president of the MCPA, questioned Bouchard’s figure of up to 60 head stolen each year.
“Without a brand inspection system in place, how do we know our losses?” he asked. “Yes, there is a cost. But if you lose nine or 10 head on your ranch, then I believe that brand inspection pays for itself. That was the original intent of last year’s resolution.”
Fox added that banks have shown interest in the security aspect of brand inspection, particularly when choosing whether to extend financing to cattle feeders. A stronger feeder industry in Manitoba would benefit the cow-calf sector, he added.
“When stolen cattle are being brought to Manitoba and sold, that’s not good for our image. We have to come together and join the rest of the Prairie provinces,” he said.
Larry Clifford said that just two days ago, he was able to recover four heifers that he would not have been able to claim ownership of had they not been branded. He echoed Fox’s position, saying Manitoba has been a “dumping ground” for stolen cattle for years.
“I wonder if this premises ID and identification could be worked into some sort of a brand,” he said. “Brands don’t fall off, they don’t get lost. You can usually read them with the naked eye, you don’t need a reader that doesn’t operate.”
Ray Armbruster said that given the progress made on the national traceability scheme, a brand inspection system would in effect create two parallel tracking systems. He added animal welfare concerns are coming to the forefront, and the balance is turning against the age-old practice.
“Branding has a place. Where there is commingling, in community pastures and in places where cattle get mixed up, it’s appropriate to be used,” said Armbruster. daniel. [email protected]
“Brandedcattleare alsostolen.Athiefis athief.Ifthereisa will,there’saway.”
– JOE BOUCHARD