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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Ranchers in the West say cattle branding with a hot iron is still the best way to separate their livestock from their neighbor’s. In Colorado, branding is mandatory. And a rancher’s brand is private property that can be bought and sold. And that’s given rise to a lucrative market.
Colorado Public Radio’s Zachary Barr reports.
ZACHARY BARR: Ex-rancher Marc Allard’s hanging out at the county fair. He’s on one side of the fairgrounds — and clear on the other side are the cattle. And that’s fine by him.
MARC ALLARD: Only place I want to see a cow is on the plate.
After 50 years in the business, Allard decided to quit. He says its too hard to make a living. He sold the ranch, but he’s still got one thing up for sale: his cattle brand.
ALLARD: I had it since I was a kid. Kept it forever.
Allard hasn’t yet found a buyer, but he has a good idea of what that buyer’s name is.
ALLARD: You know if your name’s Al, it’s real good.
“Al” is the brand. It’s the letters A and L, with a bar underneath. And it doesn’t come cheap.
ALLARD: Oh, probably in the $3-4,000 range.
BARR: I’ll give you $1,500.
ALLARD:No, not enough.
Allard’s price is high because ranchers covet simple one and two letter brands. But those haven’t been available for decades. In fact, finding anything that works can be tough — around 33,000 unique brands are registered in Colorado. But a few weeks ago it had even more.
At his office, Brand Commissioner Rick Wahlert opens a filing cabinet. It contains paper work from 4,000 newly canceled brands.
RICK WAHLERT: See like some of these, like this one was first recorded in 1950. And they just didn’t pay the last assessment.
A five-year assessment now costs $225. That’s double what it was a few years ago. Wahlert says that fee increase is causing people to give up brands they no longer need. But before you book a flight to Denver to start a career flipping cattle brands — you should know most of the recently canceled brands aren’t so valuable.
WAHLERT: This brand is stacked a quarter circle shedding water, over a Z connected to a lazy J down on the right.
In other words, it’s no “Al.”
In Denver, I’m Zachary Barr for Marketplace
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