Retired Livestock Inspector Has Stories To Tell
Gary Guichon enjoyed his work but says there is no shortage of calls in the middle of the night to deal with cattle truck rollovers
STRATHMORE, Alberta. – After nearly 40 years as a breeding inspector, Gary Guichon counts everything.
As he walks past a pasture, he counts the cattle in the field. The animals walking in an alley are counted and sometimes he counts the birds.
âI count most things. The geese are taking off from the lake and I’m trying to count them, âsaid Guichon from his farm in Strathmore.
His wife Kathy confirms his count never stops: “We were driving down the freeway past a field and Gary says ’32, go for it ‘and keeps driving.”
In the early days of Calgary stockyard work, he said, cattle were automatically counted every time they passed a worker.
“They were training these guys if somebody was raising a herd of cattle and you were in the alley, no matter who you were, you were leaning against the fence and when the guy got up to you, you’d ‘say, ’64, yeah thank you.’ It was just the way the staff worked.
Guichon began his career as a brand inspector in 1982 at Calgary Stockyards. It was Guichon’s job to inspect the brands and ensure the identity of the cattle in the packing plants, stockyards and country sales in the region.
During the day he identified the marks and at the end of each day manually wrote down each mark and identifier in a special book to ensure the correct identification of the cattle.
âIf this guy had 40 different brands, we would use a page and a half for a contributor. “
Marks were a way of identifying animals, but Guichon said inspectors looked at everything from purebred tattoos, to breed differences and RFID tags to help secure animal ownership. .
âIf we had the money on something that had someone else’s mark on, you were expected to get all the identifiers on it. If there is a mark, take it off, if there is an ear tag, take it off, if there is an RFID tag, take it off and a tattoo can be helpful, âhe said. -he declares.
âI made mistakes too. One day I snatched the devil from a gray cow. I didn’t think I left any hair on it. A guy came into the market and said, âYou better open your eyes because my brand is there. I said ‘no it doesn’t’ and took my rope and clippers. Sure enough, all the way down on the stomach was a mark.
Guichon said that while they sometimes had trouble finding all of the IDs, some livestock owners did too. A few times he was called to farms about a stray animal only to find the animal belonged to the person who called him.
âThere was a wandering white heifer and when I went to their farm, I saw that they had all the Charolais cattle. She looked like a purebred and when I read the tattoo the farmer said, âThese are our farm letters. “
At another farm, the owner called about a bull roaming his herd. Guichon noticed he had a Calgary Bull Sale tag. He made a few calls and found out that the farmer had bought the bull earlier that year.
“A lot of guys really depend on their brand.”
The job changed in 1998, when trademark inspection services were transferred from Alberta Agriculture and privatized as Livestock Identification Services. It was not without controversy, Guichon said.
While some producers may have thought the rules were optional before it was privatized, new managing director Ken Weir strictly enforced government legislation.
âHe’s done a lot of things that pissed off a lot of people, but in my opinion he’s been good. When we were with the government, it became very easy. You could be told to back off. When Weir arrived it all came back the hard way and quickly and every brand inspector was chewed up because we were forcing people to follow the law. “
Later, when David Moss took over LIS, the title of Guichon became a cattle inspector and with it increased responsibilities.
âHe always wanted to show the value and value of LIS. He was always looking for things we could do to help the industry.
Finding value for the ranching industry was a mission Guichon took seriously when he ended up overseeing nearly 80 inspection staff across the province.
As inspection manager, Guichon’s mission was to manage staff, but also to help resolve cattle thefts, promote the industry and deal with cattle overturns and difficult accidents.
Guichon remembers a call about two stray steers wandering in the ditch. They had been stolen the day before. The thief may have noticed the mark and decided not to risk getting caught selling some branded cattle and letting them go.
Horses are more difficult to trace, he said. Stolen horses can often be used on a farm or ranch for 15 years before being sold.
Guichon would often take his horse to wild animals or overturns along busy Alberta Highway 2.
âWe got a call. The back door of an ocean liner opened and he was dropping fat heifers through the door. One had fallen on the road and was in the pasture. My horse was shod. I ran and looped it over and it just stopped. If she had walked through the fence and gone onto the freeways, it wouldn’t have been right.
On another call to check on a stray bull, Guichon and his partner attempted to tie up a bull in a pasture filled with barbed wire. Worried about the wire, Guichon threw a rope back towards the bull and grabbed a hind leg. When he coiled the rope, his hand was sucked into the horn and all of his fingers and the top of his hand were cut off.
He returned to the trailer and was taken to hospital. Later, her lassoing partner was sent back to the pasture to find her hand and bring it to the hospital in the hope that it could be put back in place.
âI never thought of the hand when it came out. I was lying on the bed and looked on the counter and saw a plastic box of tobacco where I kept my .22 cartridges. I thought, oh well, he found my hand. He must have found him and brought him to town.
Two years and many surgeries later, the fingers are reattached, except for the little finger.
“If it hadn’t been for all that wire there, we could have tied it anywhere.”
After 38 years, Guichon’s work came to an end last July and he turned his attention to his family, his cattle and his farm outside of Strathmore. What is not lacking are calls in the middle of the night to deal with cattle rollovers.
âIt was also a huge relief. It’s good that my phone doesn’t ring at night to face a stray dog ââin someone’s backyard. I don’t know how many family, Christmas or Easter dinners I would miss to deal with a stray in the city.