HUDSPETH CO., Texas — In the fall of 2019, ranch hands were gathering a bull when they noticed something out of place. One of their employer’s cows was freshly branded, with someone else’s brand.
It wasn’t the first time this had occurred, and the victim reached out to the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office for help. Deputy Sheriff Robert Newman called Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Clay McKinney for assistance.
Through their investigation, Newman and McKinney discovered the cow did in fact have a fresh brand on her left hip. McKinney explained he knew it was a fresh brand because after cattle are branded, the hide where the brand is applied begins to heal which results in a brand scabbing over and peeling. Once the brand successfully scabs over and peals it leaves a permanent scar on the hide of the animal. The brand was a backwards F connected to a M and a L, registered to Felipe Lopez, the victim’s neighbor.
On the right side, the cow had a much older brand that was registered to the victim. The cow had also been given an earmark used by Lopez. In an interview with Felipe and his wife, Eva, the couple admitted that was their brand and ear mark and “there was no excuse.” They offered payment for the cow, but the victim chose to pursue criminal charges.
According to a report from Newman, similar complaints have been made against the Lopezes six times since 2016.
The investigators presented the case to the El Paso District Attorney’s Office and Felipe Lopez was indicted. He now faces third degree felony charges of theft of livestock.
McKinney said cases like this are a good reminder to observe your cattle carefully and frequently — and to know your neighbors.
“A brand is still the best defense we have against livestock theft,” he said, “And fortunately the rightful owner discovered the fresh brand before it was too late.”
–Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
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