Is there a piggy in your pantry? Livestock reporting required, even for pets

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

 

Are you the owner of a mini-horse, fainting goat or alpaca? While cute and cuddly, these animals are considered livestock. Once a year owners must report them, and all other livestock, to the Department of Livestock.

According to Mike Honeycutt, executive director for the Montana Department of Livestock, everyone who owns livestock is required to report by March 1.

“It’s a legal obligation,” Honeycutt said. “Those who have reported in the past should have received the 2018 reporting form this week. Even if you just have a few backyard chickens or a pet pig, you are required to report them. The list of animals that must be reported is in the state statutes. It covers all types of livestock, including animals people don’t always think of as livestock, such as elk or bison.”

In addition to the reporting requirement, there is a fee imposed on all livestock owners. The fee is set by the Board of Livestock, and varies, based on the type of animal. For example, this year those with sheep or goats are assessed 54 cents per animal, while those with cattle will pay $2.29 per head. Got bison? Expect to pay $6.38 each to the state, while beekeepers pay 41 cents per hive.

The fees, which Honeycutt said could be considered a tax on livestock, fund many of the department’s activities, such as monitoring animal health, predator control, livestock crime and tracking lost animals.

“People may not realize all the work the Department of Livestock does,” Honeycutt said. “This is especially true of the small or hobby producers. One example is, if you have a horse and you sell it, you want somewhere where the sale is tracked. I like to say we are like the DMV of livestock.”

Honeycutt said the Department of Livestock handles brand inspections, requirements for transporting livestock into or out of the state, working with game farms to prevent the spread of disease, even finding lost animals.

“If your animal gets out of the fence, it’s our people who are out looking for it, and making sure there is a safe place to keep it while searching for the owner,” Honeycutt said.

Anyone with livestock will eventually come in contact with the department, he added.

“Some day you’ll come across a service you need from the Department of Livestock, funded by these per capita fees. By everyone paying their share, it spreads the cost out,” he explained.

 

What determines the fee?

Fees are set by the seven-member Board of Livestock, and are based on risk factors, how many of the animals are in the state, and whether there are subsidies from the federal government or other sources to offset state fees, Honeycutt said.

The make up of the Board of Livestock is set by law, with four members being cattle producers, one representing the dairy and poultry industry, one swine producer and one sheep producer. Members are appointed by the governor to six-year terms.

Per capita fees can change through the years, depending on the animal’s impact.

“For example, until recently we didn’t have a lot of large poultry producers in our state,” Honeycutt said. “But the big egg plant in Great Falls is enticing producers to raise more. So the Board of Livestock may revisit the poultry per capita fee.”

Regardless of impact, though, the amount a fee may be raised in any given year is restricted by law, Honeycutt said, adding the fees create a stable income for the department.

“The department [of livestock] is 80 to 90 percent self-funded by those who use our services,” he said. “We were less affected than other state departments by the 10 percent across-the-board cuts this year because of the income we get from the per capita fees.”

The livestock reporting form asks owners to list the numbers of each type of livestock they have on their property as of Feb. 1. Only certain ages of animals must be reported; very young animals are not reported.

“Accurate reporting is essential,” Honeycutt said. “It provides a way to establish livestock numbers in Montana, and trends in livestock numbers. Also, for those using some of the federal ag programs, they will check with us on the numbers that were reported when producers apply to them for funding.”

Per capita fees must be paid by May 31, 2018.

Anyone who did not receive a reporting form can contact the Department of Livestock in Helena at (406) 444-9321.

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