Some Numbers

For Your Consideration…

Geography and Population

  • Arizona covers 114,006 square miles, making it the sixth largest state (and almost all of that area is land not water. But then livestock don’t generally swim too often.)
  • 6.4M residents

Data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service (their latest published estimates – most being the end of last year or beginning of this year)

  • 185,000 – beef cows (mammas) on the ranges of AZ
  • 35,000 – replacement heifers
  • 190,000 – dairy cows
  • 65,000 – replacement dairy heifers
  • 279,000 –  cattle in feedlots
  • 140,000 – sheep and lambs
  • 23,000 – Angora goats
  • 3,000 – dairy goats
  • 29,000 – meat goats
  • 180,000 – total hogs

Equine Numbers are little harder to come by. There’s a 2005 national study that was done by Deloitte Consulting. And the U of A published one in late 2001. Their numbers put total horses between 167,000 to 199,000 involving 48,000 to 64,000 households with an estimated in the $1.3B (as in billion) range.

Now for the numbers of those serving…

  • 8 Full-time Livestock Officers (Certified Peace Officers)
  • 5 Full-time Livestock Inspectors
  • 3 Full-time Equivalent (Part-Time Deputy Inspectors – I’m still verifying these folks so bear with me on the accuracy of this one)
  • 1.5 Assistant State Veterinarians
  • 1 State Veterinarian

Any questions?

You can peruse the NASS data on line. The link I put in directs you to the cattle section. Most reports are in text and pdf formats.

Don’t Be Led A-Stray

Not everyone wants to help the horse that’s wandering along the side of the road. But a lot of folks will. And do. And you should probably know a little bit about the legal ramifications of what you’ve just decided to do, if that good Samaritan happens to be you.

3-1401Definition of stray animal spells out how livestock (along with bison and ratites, aka buffalo, emus and ostriches) can wind up being called “stray” in a legal sense. It’s fairly straight-forward. But there are also a couple of aspects that most people that I visit with are not aware of.

…whose owner is unknown or cannot be located, or any such animal whose owner is known but permits the animal to roam at large on the streets, alleys, roads, range or premises of another without permission…

So from that excerpt you can see that there is the situation where the animal has wandered from its home. And there is the situation where the owner is unknown or cannot be located. A lot of folks use the term abandoned in this situation.

I don’t mean to be nit-picky, but these animals are actually stray, by the definition previously cited, and as such have to be handled in a fairly specific way which is defined in subsequent statutes. (There are a handful on the books that deal specifically with stray livestock.)

3-1402Holding and sale of stray animals; repossession before and after sale; nonliability of state is very clear in its direction that if Joe or Jane Q. Public finds a stray, s/he may try to find the owner and let them know they need to get Bessie home. And it’s also very clear that if they don’t want to go to that trouble or can’t find the owner, then Jane or Joe is obligated to notify AZDA and we must deal with it, aka the Department of Agriculture becomes that animal’s custodian.

Next Step:  We are then obligated to post 3 notices in the area describing the animal and where it was found;  provide feed and care;  and maintain that animal for 7 days (an additional 7 will be granted if anyone asks for such).

Last Step: At the end of this holding period, if no person has come forward to claim the animal (and present documentation supporting that claim) the animal is sold at public auction and the proceeds from the sale go into the Livestock Custody Fund (which is the method in which the care and feeding of these animals is funded.)

Now let me point out a couple of things along the way to the end of this process.

AZDA has no facilities for holding livestock. But in one of the stray statutes, the ability to contract for providing feed and care for these animals is spelled out. Traditionally these arrangements have been with the various livestock markets around the state because they were in the business of providing feed and care for short term to the clients whose livestock were being sold there. And because they were a venue for the required public auction. Most of the livestock markets in AZ no longer sell horses however.

Also statute mandates that the animals be sold at public auction so that any member of the public has an opportunity to bid; it doesn’t mandate they be sold at a livestock market.

We’ve conducted public auctions at the various places where these animals have been held and cared for. This can save a lot of effort, time and expense on the agency’s part. It can also reduce the stress on and risk to the animals. But sometimes finding those folks and places willing (and capable!) to provide feed and care, especially given the rising costs of feed, can be difficult.

My thoughts on this process are this was a reasonable and effective solution to the problem of how to allow an owner to find their livestock. I believe it worked particularly well when the community was primarily ranching and small. It was also predicated on the assumption the livestock had an underlying economic value that ensured the owner would attempt to recover his property. And It also worked well because historically there were triple-digits of livestock services personnel in the field.

Today and the last several years have presented a different situation. Many stray equine literally have a negative economic value, which I feel certain had a lot to do with how they became strays. And today our Livestock Officers number in the single digits.

There’s an awful lot to this topic, even more than I’ve covered. And I’ve probably already wandered over so much ground that you may have gotten lost. I hope not. But then I did grow up with a bunch of cows and they tend to like to wander around a lot too.

Enjoy the ride.

Livestock’s Right To Roam

You could subtitle this one – Lawful Fence Re-visited.

You might recall an earlier post concerning the rights of livestock to roam in Arizona’s unincorporated areas. Basically they have the right of way. And there was a bit of follow up to that concept when I explained the lawful fence statute. Since forage is short in many places right now, the range livestock are looking for things green and tasty to munch on. Not surprisingly, I have had calls recently from upset residential property owners whose situation revolve around these 2 statutes and the livestock out there roaming onto their property for a snack, or in some cases a 7-course meal.

I also want to point out that just like orges and onions, the law has layers. I hope (since I can no longer say that I trust given what I’ve witnessed and experienced with the educational system) that we all understand that the Constitution to the United States of America is the supreme law of the land. That’s Layer One, at least as far as I’m concerned. But there are several others. There’s also U.S. Code (U.S.C. – permanent federal law) and the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R. – the rules that federal bureaucracies promulgate) that accompany the Constitution on the federal level. (By the way, does anyone else out there think PromulGate sounds like the cover up that occurred subsequent to actions at someone’s high school prom and those actions were subsequently uncovered – say roughly 9 months later??)

Then we have the state level. And in Arizona that means Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S. – state law) which is often accompanied by Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C. – which are the rules that state bureaucracies issue at the direction of various statutes, and one of which made at least one person from out of state very unhappy yesterday). Then we have the county/local level. There are county ordinances as well as city/town ordinances that form there own layer.

Any and all layers may have some application in a given matter. For example the call from the property owner that I mentioned back at the start. His property was zoned into a certain classification. He understood this zoning to pertain to the Open Range situation in Arizona (btw – that’s a colloquialism – I’ve never been able to find it in statute.)

But his understanding was in error because zoning issues are a county matter while the roaming of livestock is a state matter. And so we have separate layers of our onion which in this case don’t connect. Now if the situation were a little different, say that we had a city or town limit involved in place of the zoning ordinance, then we have a different legal situation because by statute, livestock aren’t allow to roam in town. (I’ll refrain from drawing parallels to some humans’ behaviors that I’ve seen demonstrated inside city limits.)

Whew. I hope you’ve been taking notes on that! Because here’s another wrinkle, err, statute that pertains in the callers situation.

Because the caller’s fence didn’t meet the definition set forth in Section A of the Lawful Fence statute and because Section B gives the fence owner protection if the fence is equally as strong and otherwise effective, the owner may be entitled to damages. However, that’s a judgement to be made by the civil court; not an enforcement action to be made by the certified peace officers who report to the state veterinarian. The owner would need to petition the court (and which court to approach is dependent on the dollar amount involved) to be heard on the matter.

Additionally, A.R.S. 1428 provides for a lien against the livestock to the person whose property the livestock damaged. So if livestock break through your lawful fence and you can pen them, and if you recover damages through the court, then the statute also entitles you to a lien against them for those damages.

And some folks wonder why I preferred studying simple things like the Krebs Cycle!

One parting observation – I’ve been reading a little book lately that’s a compilation of essays about the signers of the Constitution. If you think all this convoluted law business is relatively new then I’d recommend that you read Signing Their Rights Away. Many of those folks were in and out of court (not just because of their profession but because someone was after them!) for much of their lives. Several went broke speculating on land. Some even wound up in debtors prison.

Resource Conservation

There’s an interesting paper published in the December 2011 edition of the Journal of Animal Science.

The environmental impact of beef production in the United States: 1977 compared with 2007

The publisher has graciously made the entire paper freely available to the public. You simply need to visit the link I put in. It’ll open a new tab/window for you. There’s the online version as well as a pdf one.

In short, American animal agriculture produces considerably more with less. That’s efficiency. And here’s a section with a few points excerpted from the abstract.

Modern beef production requires considerably fewer resources than the equivalent system in 1977, with 69.9% of animals, 81.4% of feedstuffs, 87.9% of the water, and only 67.0% of the land required to produce 1 billion kg of beef. Waste outputs were similarly reduced, with modern beef systems producing 81.9% of the manure, 82.3% CH4, and 88.0% N2O per billion kilograms of beef compared with production systems in 1977. The C footprint per billion kilograms of beef produced in 2007 was reduced by 16.3% compared with equivalent beef production in 1977.

Now I actually started this post quite a bit earlier in the day than I’m (hopefully) finishing it. Along the way today I got into a bit of a history lesson. That exchange focused on the fact that a certain society decided to abandon development of a certain technology so that a more socially acceptable technology could continue. Please note I didn’t qualify that as better or worse, but socially acceptable.

There are those who would say that particular society’s decision to abandon that technology left their society very vulnerable as time past, particularly when they were confronted by other parties in the world who didn’t feel such constraints. And I’m just as certain that there are those who feel most any technology is best avoided.

There’s a second historical point I want to bring up here, the one that was first on my mind when this started. This one’s an important history lesson that bears directly on the efficiency of American agriculture that is so prominent in the article I excerpted. The first of the Morrill Land Grant Acts was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.  The purpose of which was:

to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.

And that translated into institutions such as Cornell, Iowa State, Virginia Tech (my alma mater!), The University of Arizona and many others coming into being.

I find it more than a bit fascinating, humbling, and inspiring that during a bloody war between the states in which Union forces had been doing poorly at the time, Congress and the President had the vision and foresight to see what the country needed in the future and the wherewithal to act on it.

And we all share in the legacy of those folks actions, the bounties fostered by the land grant universities, to this day. With this type of support American farmers and ranchers have continued to feed ever-growing numbers of people, doing so with less raw materials, less waste produced and fewer people willing to work the land.

Now that’s resource conservation!

Who You Gonna Call?

So maybe I’m dating myself with that title phrase. But the first salvo in this morning’s mail brought me to the topic of helping the public help us do our jobs more efficiently. And since some of those tax dollars are mine too, I want to get my pennies-worth out of them.

This morning’s situation involved a person emailing one of our 1.5 assistant state veterinarians (ASV) with a request to investigate a matter of livestock welfare. The email also contained an email from another person with some image files attached. In other words we received a second-hand rumor of a situation that may warrant assigning folks to investigate.

This approach to notify us might well have not gotten through an email filter. It could very easily have been tagged as spam and sent to trash. Also note that I made reference to our 1.5 ASVs, since the email was sent to the fellow who represents the 0.5! He may well have not been in active service for an extended time. Obviously no one wants these matters going into some black hole.

So how should you let us know something is going on that may warrant looking into?

The ASV’s reply in this case is noteworthy because it’s short, clear, and precise: “you or the original reporting party need to initiate a complaint by calling Arizona Department of Agriculture Animal Services Division (AZDA – ASD) Dispatch at 800-294-0305 if you feel the situation warrants investigation.”

Along the lines of this situation, aka rumors by another name, take the following example of a call very similar to the email that instigated today’s post.

QUESTION FROM A CALLER: I have received several calls this week regarding some cases of neglect. The folks that called me want to remain anonymous and do not want to leave their name and information on the 800# call in line.  One person works on the ranch he is calling about, the other is a vet tech who does not want to get in trouble with the veterinarian she works for.  Neither one want to call in but want the horses checked on.

ANSWER FROM THE ASV: Have you personally seen the animals you describe to verify their condition? Acting on second-, third- or later-hand information is generally unrewarding as to our use of time and resources. Do you have reason to believe the information that you are relaying is accurate if you have not observed the situation in question?

Here’s the deal and please remember the point about rumors and my earlier point about efficiency of operations.

It is essential that a complaint be initiated by either you or the original reporting party with AZDA Dispatch for the Animal Services Division to commit personnel time to investigate these calls. Dispatch is also the position who can allocate the call to the person able to respond best.

Accurate information as to the location of the livestock should be provided at this time. Call-back numbers for the reporting party and the livestock owners are also essential should the investigating officer or inspector require additional information or driving directions. These should be provided to the dispatch operator at the time of the initial call.

Identities of reporting parties are not normally divulged during the course of the investigation. However these data may be accessible in the course of public document requests after the investigation is complete.

BTW – Happy New Year! And be sure to enjoy the ride.