Between attending every livestock auction in the area or trying to find the owner of a horse wandering down the road, brand inspectors are busy folks.
Chad Moore, a brand inspector and supervisor for the Durango district, in January was named Colorado Brand Inspector of the Year.
He received the award at the mid-winter conference of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association in Denver and was chosen from a field of 61 brand inspectors in the state.
Moore has served as the brand inspector for the Durango district that includes La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, and parts of Hinsdale and Mineral counties for the past eight years. During the last three years, his duties also include supervising all brand inspectors for the Durango, Cortez, and Alamosa Districts.
"Every licensed auction has to have a brand inspector present," Moore said last week as he observed brands on different groups of bulls and steers coming into the High Country Auction pens in Breen. The next day, about 75 bulls were scheduled to be auctioned, followed by 200 or so heifers.
Brand inspections also are required for any change of ownership, if animals are shipped more than 75 miles, or if they come into or leave the state.
Last week's auction was a small affair. In the fall, when more local ranchers are selling their animals, more than 1,000 head of cattle will come through the auction barn. That's the busy time of year for him and two other part-time inspectors who work for him in the Durango district.
That's also when there are more calves, and sometimes they get separated from their mothers. Moore said the favorite part of his job is returning someone's missing animals. They either wander away or get mixed up in another herd.
"That's essentially why we're here," he said. Although cattle rustling isn't a huge problem these days, it still happens. The problem is more prevalent in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, which don't have brand laws, he explained.
Stolen cattle "are harder to sell here," because the inspectors require a bill of sale from each owner.
He also likes his job because he gets to spend most of his time outside, "and I'm somewhere different all the time," he said.
Moore grew up in central Oregon, spending time on a family ranch, then started working on ranches when he was 14. After serving in the Army, he was honorably discharged at Ft. Carson and was looking for a job in Colorado when he became a brand inspector. He lives in Bayfield with his two children, driving to their sports events and activities most weekends.
"Chad is visible throughout his district and is known for his promptness and dedication," wrote Barbara Jefferies, a member of the La Plata-Archuleta Cattlemen's Association. She wrote the application nominating Moore for the state inspection award. "He strives to be aware of activities relating to the livestock industry. He works with other law enforcement agencies, locally, and throughout Colorado and New Mexico in the prosecution of illegal activities relating to the livestock industry."
"Immediately after the spill in the Animas River, Chad served as the point person for the Colorado Agricultural Department and the Brand Board. He met with members of the livestock community to help them understand the implications relating to the river water and animal health."
Moore said he and other inspectors can often recognize a herd before they check the brands, just because they've seen them come or go to the sale barns before from the San Luis Valley or New Mexico.
Inspectors know the brands by sight after years of experience.
"It's literally the animal's only return address," he said.
One depressing aspect of his job is trying to track down the owners of abandoned horses, often on federal lands. The problem was worse at the height of the recession, but it still exists today.
People "dump out" their horses, basically dumping their problems on someone else, he explained.
He deals with more horses in this district than many inspectors, he explained.