Marek talks livestock brand inspections

Photo by Sarah Klement


Contact Katie Marek:


A brand inspector may

also be reached at the

district office.


“Always ask for a brand inspection when buying livestock!” said Katie Marek, district brand inspector.

All livestock must be brand inspected whether the animal is actually branded or not.

More than two million head of Idaho livestock, including horses, were inspected last fiscal year.

Brands remain the most recognized permanent way to identify livestock; an important part of agriculture, but, also a necessity for any livestock owner.

Livestock brands provide proof of ownership for beef cattle, dairy cows, sheep, horses and mules in the state of Idaho.

“The brand is an animal’s only return address,” said Larry Hayhurst, Idaho State Brand Inspector. “It’s like the license plate on your car.” (

The first brand recording and inspection system in the Northwest was set up by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association in 1872, in Laramie.

In 1881, the first mention of brand laws appeared, while Idaho was still a territory. At this time, Idaho Session Laws provided rules for brand ownership and penalties for defacing a brand, also officially establishing that brands were prima facie evidence of the ownership of the brand, provided that such brand had been duly recorded.

Recorded earmarks have also held weight as evidence in ownership disputes.

Marek said, “A brand inspection is required every time there is a change of ownership in any way, or crossing the Idaho state line, regardless if the animal is branded or not. It is also required if an animal is going to slaughter.”

“Usually it is the seller’s responsibility to obtain the brand inspections and pay the inspection fees,” said Marek.

When a brand inspector has to travel to do an inspection, the minimum fee of $20 applies unless the amount due for the brand inspection is greater than the $20.

“The brand inspection shows proof of ownership and needs to be kept for as long as you own the animal in case any questions ever arise.”

Marek continued, “If a brand inspector is not available at the time of sale then you can obtain a ‘bill of sale’. A bill of sale is only valid for 10 days until a brand inspection can be written. A valid bill of sale must contain date of sale, complete description of livestock, name of buyer, and signature of the seller.”

“A bill of sale does not replace a brand inspection,” Marek said.

When owners of unclaimed livestock cannot be determined, the livestock are sold with the money put into the state’s public school endowment fund, which spends the interest but not the principal.

“The Idaho Brand Department is a branch of the Idaho State Police, so I had to pass a background check, a polygraph test, and a series of other tests,” said Marek.

“Brand inspector positions don’t come available very often,” Marek said. “I was given this opportunity to apply for the job when Daryl Reed retired in 2013.”

Marek said, “I was hired in the Lewiston district, which is where our office is based. I cover most of Idaho County and wherever else I’m needed.”

Jim Kennedy is the Lewiston district supervisor.

In Idaho, brands are recorded in six locations on cattle-left and right hip, left and right ribs, and left and right shoulders. Brands are read from left to right, from top down, and from outside to inside. If a letter or symbol is made backwards from its normal position, it is read as reversed; if it lies horizontally on its face or back, it is called “lazy”; a line over or under a brand is called a “bar”; a line before or after a brand is a “dash”. Two letters joined together in a brand is called a “monogram”. (Idaho Cattleman, August, 1965, page 34)

Types of brand inspections for cattle include a one-time inspection or a seasonal inspection.

One-time inspection is written for a change of ownership, or to get animal from point A to point B, and is only good for that one time.

A seasonal inspection is good for one year. Marek said, “It works well for people who travel with their cattle in and out of state periodically to rodeos, shows, etc.”

Horses wear an Idaho registered brand on a shoulder, hip or thigh.

“There are three types of brand inspections for horses,” Marek said. “A one-time inspection is written for a change of ownership, or will get you from point A to point B, and is only good for that one time.”

“A seasonal inspection is good for one year. It works well for people who travel with their horses in and out of state often.” Although, Marek noted, “some states don’t like to recognize this type of inspection and require a lifetime.”

“A lifetime inspection is good for as long as a person owns the horse. It is an inspection that shows pictures of the animal and also a description,” said Marek, “It works well if a person is traveling with the horse a lot.”

Brand inspections are not required on sheep.

Approximately 22,000 brands are registered in the state of Idaho. Brands must be renewed at the end of each five-year period; this protocol was established in 1939.

“In this job, I get to see some pretty sunrises, meet a lot of people, and see some new country, all while being around cattle and horses,” Marek said, “I really enjoy it.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment