Hugo, Colo. — When Wall Street Journal reporter Stephanie Simon was looking for a ranch branding to cover for a news article, her inquiries eventually led her to the plains of eastern Colorado, site of the Bledsoe Ranch.
The Bledsoe family was eager to accommodate her in order to express their concern about the potential loss of an important Western tradition and animal identification method. Branding is so embedded in the history and culture of the ranch that a handmade metal sign welcoming visitors to “Bledsoe Country” depicts a calf being marked with a hot iron.
“It’s simple, and it works,” Wil Bledsoe said. “But I don’t think the government likes simple anymore.”
The Wall Street Journal is among many media outlets covering a controversy that has been heating up in anticipation of the publication of draft rules for a disease traceability framework that will replace the notoriously unpopular National Animal ID Program.
Ranchers, particularly in official brand states like Colorado and Texas, want hot-iron brands to be used as an official form of identification for cattle being shipped across state lines. Early proposals for the new framework would allow states to continue using brands but would require additional identification to meet interstate shipping requirements.
“The branding issue is important to me,” Bledsoe said. “The government is trying to come in and say it’s not going to be recognized and yet it’s worked for 200-plus years.”
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