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Cattle, sheep tags show vivid history

Dave Levanger shows off a collection of cattle ear tags that hang in his Carbon County office.
The old cattle ear tags come in many forms, colors and sizes. Some were even home made.
The old cattle ear tags come in many forms, colors and sizes. Some were even home made.

Millard County Chronicle Progress

Grazing permits on federal land were first issued by the U S Forest Service in 1906. Grazing permits issued on the rest of the federal land came about after the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. By June 1935 over 65 million acres had been placed in grazing districts.

One of the tools used to monitor grazing was the ear tag. Ear tags varied in size, shape and information recorded on them. The original ear tags were made of metal.

National forest tags identified the forest and the grazing year. A serial number identifying the permit holder was also present on the tag. For example, the tag would have Fishlake N. F. in a diamond-shaped region with 1947 beneath it and 15455 stamped on the tag. One tag issued showed the creativity of the Fishlake National Forest personnel. Instead of an oval, round or diamond shield, the 1933 ear tags features a fish-shaped shield.

Ear tags used on what is now BLM-administered lands would normally include the name of the permit holder and their home base. An example of this type featured the name "Cluff Talbot, Hinckley Utah" stamped in the metal.

Such tags could be found in use up until the 1960s. A change in technology brought about plastic tags and eventually reflective tags. The reflective tags are used to bring attention to an animal in the dark when grazing on open range.

Ike Harward of Delta and Dave Levanger of Spring Glen has put together a display of metal ear tags. While they are generally a thing of the past, a check on the internet will tell anyone that new ones can still be obtained, although most ranchers don't use that kind anymore.

Harward started collecting them years ago with a tag his family used. It caught his imagination and he then kept a watchful eye out for other tags.

"Ear tags made during World War II imitated the copper pennies issued by the U.S. Mints-they were made of steel to help save precious metals for the war effort," said Harward.

Some tags were homemade. For instance a rectangular copper tag Harward owns was made by F.W. Memmott of Scipio. It once graced the ear of a bull. Other local names in the Millard County area also on many of his tags.

Levanger began collecting them when he found a bunch of them when he was working with his family years ago in a corral just outside of Boulder in Wayne County. He gathered them up and mounted them on a board that now hangs in his office at Carbon County Planning and Zoning where he works.

"It was a tradition to go there to gather cattle for my family," said Levanger. "One day I just realized a lot of them were there.

While he hasn't actively looked for them for some time, when he discovers one somewhere he picks it up. Until he learned about Harward's collection he didn't realize others were collecting them.

"I guess I will keep my eyes out for them," he said.

His collection does not include any from Emery or Carbon county, but those probably exist in various places in the area. One of his tags is a BLM tag that says "BLM 298."

He also has some tags from the Dixie National Forest and a couple that read "K.G. King and Sons." That tag is from the Anitmony area.

Different ranchers from all over the state grazed and used the ranges in various parts of Utah. These ranching entities included the LDS Church and the Utah State Prison.

So these many years later, these tags provide a mute history looking into the not-so-distant past of the state and the areas involved in ranching on public land.

Richard Shaw of the Sun Advocate contributed to this article.

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