SLV Cattlemen Call Meeting for Disappearing Livestock
By Kathy Bedell, © Saguache Today
Missing Livestock. For many residents, these two words usually conjure up one of two images: outlaw-cowboy rustlers or visiting-alien mutilators. But for San Luis Valley (SLV) ranchers, the disappearance of over 300 head of cattle in recent months means one thing: lost income.
And that’s why the SLV Cattlemen’s Association has called a meeting this Thursday, Jan. 25 from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Centauri High School Band Room, located in La Jara, Colo.
The San Luis Valley Cattlemen’s Association is facilitating the community meeting to discuss the growing disappearance of livestock in and around the San Luis Valley and Northern New Mexico. Joining the conversation will be representatives from the Colorado Brand Commission, Colorado Brand Inspectors, Law Enforcement (Colorado State Patrol and County Sheriff’s Offices), Federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service, along with New Mexico Brand inspectors.
According to the State Board of Stock Inspection Commissioners’ reports there have been an alarming increase in reports of cattle simple disappearing without a trace.
“There’s always an expectation for ranchers that one or two might not come home due to natural causes,” explained Erin Nissen in an interview with Saguache Today. “But the sheer number of missing livestock in the area, has people concerned.”
Nissen is a fourth generation farmer/rancher in Saguache County whose family operates Nissen Farms, LLC, a family owned and operated farm and ranch in Saguache County produces “high quality agricultural products.” She also serves as Secretary for the SLV Cattlemen’s Association and is hoping to get the word out to as many ranchers and other affected by these recent occurrences.
Of course, most who make a living on the open range would attest to a stray heifer or young steer that may go wandering off. And yes, sometimes those can be chalked up to being dinner for some pack of coyotes, but when it comes to the official report of a herd of “24 mixed yearling steers” simply disappearing in Larkspur last September from the JA Cattle Company, it changes the conversation.
Especially for seasoned Brand Inspectors. These are the state employees charged with protecting the Colorado livestock industry. The Brand Inspection Division employs 58 brand inspectors located throughout the state including 10 supervisors. The annual budget for the division exceeds $4.5 million and is completely funded by fees paid by livestock owners and brand assessment fees levied every five years.
And if you ask them, they’ll tell you they’ve seen a thing or two over the years. But this fall’s increase in reports had even the most senior inspectors shaking their heads.
Point in case as reported to the state commission was a herd of 49 calves that went missing from a ranch in Creede last October. Then within the same month, approximately 35 head of black steer and heifer calves, 6-7months old disappeared from the Stirrup Ranch in Canon City. And just a few days later, a bit closer to home in Saguache, 16 black cows and calves went missing 3 miles west of Moffat on County Road T.
Nissen reported in her interview with Saguache Today that she has not heard of any mutilations being associated with the recent livestock disappearances.
“There has always been a lot weirdness in the valley about with livestock mutilations,” she explained. “But when you look at the numbers, from my perspective, it’s got a bit more of a human aspect to it.”
Therefore the focus of Thursday’s meeting will involved the mysterious disappearance of large herds, the cases where no bodies were found, where there’s no proof of what happened, where the cattle simply disappeared.
Last November, the largest herd of 46 was reported to have vanished from the Double X Cattle Company as they were out running in the Cumbers Forest Allotment. In total, 114 head of cattle went missing in Colorado during the month of November. And those were the ones that were officially reported.
Nissen stated that while there is theft, and ranchers anticipate some of that especially in certain mountain regions that they run their herds in, this is above normal.
“I would keep in mind, that there might be a few more than normal go missing this year because the weather has been so warm and there’s no snow up high,” explained Nissen. “So the guys that do run up higher, there’s been no snow to force the cows down. And when they’re down the’re easier to round-up.”
But even the weather is a far reach to explain the 84 head of cattle reported to have disappeared just last month in December 2017, including a herd of 24 from Del Norte, 16 near the Bear Creek and Mosca Forest Allotment from the Beebe Ranch, 12 mixed cows and calves 15 miles south of Norwood and 19 from the Twin Gates Corral in Capulin, Colo, located west of La Jara.
“People are very concerned,” concluded Nissen, encouraging all interested parties to join them this Thursday, January 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Centauri High School Band Room, located in La Jara, Colo.
The SLV Cattlemen’s Association is headquartered at 6118 Lane 5 North. Mosca, CO 81146 Contact 719-480-2600. Connect with them on Facebook.
Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, A Media Company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com. Inquiries may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.