The Cow Police

State brand inspector Tina Moody is tough as nails but she coddles animals.
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State brand inspector Tina Moody is tough as nails but she coddles animals.
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As one of 19 full-time brand inspectors in Southern California, it’s Tina Moody’s job to ensure that all cattle sold or transported in the region are properly documented with a state-issued ID tag.

“You don’t sell a car without a pink slip and you don’t buy cattle without a brand inspection,” she says.

With more than 23,000 registered brands in California’s hefty brand book, keeping up with the paperwork alone is a full-time job. Moody’s responsibilities, however, extend far beyond acting as what one of her friends jovially calls the “cow police.”

Moody also collaborates with county sheriff departments, city police, and the California Highway Patrol, which often needs her assistance in locating owners of horses hit on the highway. She also works with animal health officials to enforce their rules.

She’s on call 24/7, and late-night calls usually signal an emergency, Moody says, such as the time she helped recover 29 calves stolen from a local dairy. A truckwash owner had become suspicious of a 2 a.m. run through his facility, called Moody, and an investigation found that ear tags had been cut from some of the calves. The rustlers were arrested.

Because of her gender, there were some who questioned Moody’s ability to thrive in this male-dominated—and sometimes dangerous—field when she started the job a decade ago.

“You have to prove yourself,” she says. “The first time I went out [on a call], they said, ‘Are you going to be able to handle this?’”

The answer was an unequivocal “yes.” It also helps that Moody is very comfortable with livestock. Born and raised on a dairy farm, she was a Future Farmer’s of America Sweetheart in high school, and started rodeoing at 15, running barrels and roping goats. She also rode with the Visalia Rockettes drill team, and participates in team roping.

Moody’s personal stockyard behind her home contains five horses, miniature donkeys,

goats, and the Welsh corgis she raises. On her days off , she times for Springville Junior Rodeo Association events in her area.