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Long-time brand inspector looks back

Friendships were a highlight for former chief brand inspector

Jill Schramm/MDN Granville native Stan Misek retired this summer as North Dakota’s chief brand inspector but continues to stay involved in inspecting.

BISMARCK – Granville native Stan Misek stepped down this past summer as North Dakota’s chief brand inspector but that doesn’t mean he’s not checking cattle brands anymore.

Misek still keeps a hand in the business as a part-time local inspector because after nearly 35 years in the business, going cold turkey would be tough, he says. He’s also gained a lot of friends through brand inspecting and it’s hard to turn one’s back on that.

Misek acknowledged he’s come to know ranchers from across the state – and there truly are ranchers all across the state. Many of them have an acquaintance with Misek.

“I know a lot of brands. I can put a lot of names to a lot of brands. I don’t know how I had such a good memory for brands, but I did,” Misek said.

With more than 20,000 brands registered in the state, it occasionally happened that he would encounter one new to him, though. Some ranches have more than one brand. Also, some retired ranchers who aren’t producing more cattle still keep their brands registered.

Misek farmed and ranched near Granville until becoming the state’s chief brand inspector in 2011.

Misek had become a brand inspector in 1983. He had been doing other work at a sale barn in Minot when the brand inspector at the market talked him into becoming an inspector. He trained under that inspector and discovered he enjoyed the work.

“It’s the people,” he said of the source of the enjoyment. “You meet everybody that comes through the sale barns. I would never have met half the people I met if I hadn’t been at the sale barns, and you get to know a lot of them really well and make time to go have coffee with them.”

His work in brand inspection had begun taking so much time away from his farm and ranch that he’d reached a crossroads by 2011. He took the path that led him to the state position in Bismarck.

“It was either do that or quit brand inspecting and stay home and tend to business, because I was getting so big I couldn’t get it done. I was running all the time,” he said.

The chief inspector position involved more paperwork but also enabled him to better know the state’s inspectors and to interview new applicants to determine whether to bring them on board. Brand inspection isn’t for everyone, and some who try it don’t continue, Misek said. Of the several inspectors who trained under him over the years, he was pleased to see all stick with it.

Knowledge of the industry and familiarity with cattle are essential qualities for an inspector, he said. It can be dangerous work, and Misek knows what it’s like to be beat up or thrown over a fence by an angry or nervous animal.

The chief brand inspector and fieldmen with the state office are required to complete law enforcement academy and be licensed. Misek said there were times when it was necessary to utilize that license, although he and his staff typically called on county sheriff’s offices when arrests needed to be made. In most cases, arrests were prompted by suspected bank fraud in connection with cattle sales. Inspectors also may be called upon to verify ownership in some cattle abuse cases. In 2016, Misek helped look into instances of butchered and missing cattle during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

Misek still goes to the sales barns and takes in other activities of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, of which he’s been a member for 39 years, just to visit with the people.

He also still keeps tabs on the home farm since his mother and brother who lived there passed on. He remains in Bismarck, where his wife works for Basin Electric.

The state’s chief brand inspector as of last Aug. 1 is Blaine Northrop, who oversees about 180 full-time or part-time brand inspectors. Many of them are local inspectors who work on-call. Full-time inspectors are assigned to sales barns.

The number of sales barns has declined significantly over his 35 years in the inspection business, Misek said. Two of the barns where he did considerable work – in Harvey and Minot – are no more.

Cattle numbers haven’t seen that same decline, although ranches are fewer, he added.

As much as he loves being around cattle, Misek said he is content with part-time inspecting for now. He expects he’ll stay busy in retirement.

“Everybody has that bucket list of things they want to do,” he said. “I would like to do more traveling and a lot more fishing.”

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