Blaine Northrop, Chief Brand Inspector



There seems to be quite a few “border jumpers” in North Dakota lately. A border jumper is someone who runs cattle here, then fails to get a brand inspection done before leaving the state. This is a major concern for the neighboring producers and the entire industry.


A few weeks back, I sent West River Fieldman Steve Bay to Montana while East River Fieldman Fred Frederikson was in east river, S.D. Both were inspecting livestock that had left North Dakota without brand inspection. When this happens, we notify that state’s brand inspectors or, if it’s a no-brand state, we contact local law enforcement. Then, we contact our state veterinarian, because often there is also no health certificate with these animals.


We are even finding that, when the cattle came into North Dakota, there was no health certificate.


There is no leeway for anyone who chooses to ignore the law. In North Dakota, the first offense for crossing the border without a brand inspection is a misdemeanor, the second offense a felony. If you know or suspect anyone who may be a “border jumper,” notify me. Your cattle could be in their herd.


In one of my previous columns, I wrote about my experience flying over the McCullough Mountain Range looking for wild cattle with a Bureau of Land Management official. Not long after that trip, I was contacted by the Nevada director of agriculture. He informed me that people were supposedly rounding up the wild cattle in the southern tip of Nevada. He asked me to find out more information, so I made some phone calls and found out that people were trapping wild cattle in an old set of pens hidden in the desert below the McCullough Mountains.


My orders were to seize the cattle because no one had authority to gather them.


I knew where the pens were located from flying over them before, so I called the enforcement crew — Sterling, Chris and Justin — and told them to head for Las Vegas. I hooked on the state livestock trailer, loaded panels and drove the seven hours south. In true, bad-luck fashion, I blew a tire about two hours out of Elko, Nev., and blew another on the outskirts of Ely, Nev. In Ely, I had to mount all new tires. Finally, I got to Las Vegas and headed into the McCullough Mountain Range. In the pen, I found 40 head of wild Longhorn-Corriente- cross cattle. Some of which had pretty nice sets of horns and, by looking at how scarred up the bulls were, they knew how to use them.


The pens were so bad, I was surprised the cattle hadn’t demolished them. I called the nearest livestock auction, which was 10 to 11 hours away, and told them to send a semi. In the meantime, I went back to Las Vegas, found a ranch store and bought 20 cheap $10 tarps. By then, the enforcement crew was in Las Vegas, so we put a plan together.


The next morning, we headed to the pens. Once there, everyone kept quiet, knowing what would happen if we made too much noise. The cattle were bunched up in a corner, heads high, watching every move we made. We set panels inside the old pen and lined them with tarps. The only daylight was up the chute and the only thing holding up the loading ramp was a log chain.


It took a lot of time and patience, but we got them all loaded.


The next day driving back to Elko, just north of Ely, I blew one of the new tires on the trailer. It was nice to see things were back to normal.