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Montana Department of Livestock offers brand policy revisions


With branding season right around the corner, livestock owners in Montana should take note of the brand policy revisions recently announced by the Montana Department of Livestock.

On April 4, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) announced they will be implementing a new policy when it comes to recording, transferring, and re-recording brands. The revised policy has been over a year in the making and although only early in its implementation, the revisions have been met with positive reviews.

The brand policy revisions fell under the guidance of the Brand Advisor Committee, which is comprised of MDOL staff and board members, legislators, and industry group representatives. The diverse constituency was able to buckle down and work out revised brand policies that are both easier from an administrative side and a civilian side.

“The feedback so far has been really good on the policy,” said Ethan Wilfore, brands administrator for the MDOL.

To start off, some significant changes have been made to the characters allowed in a brand. The letters G, Q, and the number 1 can now be allowed in brands. Additional added characters include the spade, mill iron, and rafter.

Acceptable brand characters now include letters A-H, J-Z, numbers 1-9, box, diamond, heart, triangle, spade, bar, slash, quarter circle, mill iron and rafter.

The new band policy revisions also address “image brands.” As it stands, image brands constitutes characters, not listed above, that are currently used in registered livestock brands in the state of Montana.

“Some examples of these include the wine glasses, clubs, bells, spears and arrows. If they are in an active brand, they can be applied for to make a brand,” Wilfore explained.

It is important to note, this policy revision does not include ornamental brands or inactive brands.

Rules applying to statewide character conflicts stayed the same with one exception. Now that the letter G has been added to the list of acceptable characters, characters G and 6 are now considered a statewide conflict. Significant changes have been made, however, when it comes to regional conflicts.

“Throughout the review process in building these policies, we had staff get together and go through these conflicts and they were able to eliminate nearly half of the regional conflicts, which I think is going to be really helpful for folks,” Wilfore said.

Brand formats are also clarified in this updated brand policy revision. Individual characters within a brand must be oriented horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. No “tumbling” characters/brands are accepted. Additionally, the characters in multiple character brands must be arranged in such a way that they look like a singular brand.

These policy revisions come on the heels of a Montana brand re-record year. Every 10 years, brands must be re-recorded with the MDOL. Re-recording was open from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2021, and all told the MDOL processed and re-recorded 47,669 brands.

Individuals were not allowed to apply for new brands in the early months of 2022 while the MDOL processed all the re-records, but after the policy revisions were announced on April 4, the doors are open and people are now allowed and welcomed to apply for new brands.

Montana is one of only a handful of states with statewide brand laws and thusly the brand enforcement division is a critical component of the MDOL. The brand enforcement division is pleased with these brand policy revisions but they humbly ask for patience from the public as they navigate these changes.

The most current brand policy can be found at

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