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Hunter recognized by the industry for 40 years with Wyo Livestock Board

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“Joe Hunter is probably one of the best brand inspectors I have ever seen in my life,” notes Vern Rayburn, a brand inspector from Torrington.

Hunter worked as a brand inspector for over 40 years, earning respect and friendship from those around him.

Earning respect

“He was well respected by everybody,” Rayburn continues.

Shawn Madden, co-owner of Madden Brothers Auctions, echoed similar sentiments, saying, “We all have a lot of respect for Joe, and we have developed a really good working relationship.”

He described Hunter as even-tempered and a good man to be around.

“We were always able to sort any problems out. I don’t remember anything ever becoming personal or adversarial,” Madden says.

Fond memories

Madden relays a story about one of their trips in the 80s outside of Torrington, looking for some cows.

“A local bank was foreclosing on a guy’s cattle, and I became the appraiser,” he explains.

Madden, Hunter, a banker and a deputy sheriff went out to round up the cattle and look them over.

“The cattle were not on the property, so we headed back into town,” he continues.

The owner, once contacted, stated that Hunter and Madden had recently been out on his place, and, therefore, they must have stolen the cattle.

“We had to go to federal court in Cheyenne to face rustling charges,” Madden says.

Seemingly, the rancher had hidden the animals to avoid foreclosure.

“I know Joe, and I didn’t take them. We were in the company of a deputy sheriff,” Madden laughs.

Luckily, the charges were dropped, and the cattle eventually reappeared.

Working together

“Joe has been a great guy to work with,” Madden says.

Dale Armstrong, a fellow brand inspection supervisor, also enjoyed working alongside Hunter.

“Joe was a good, friendly man,” he comments. “He was easy to work with and we had a lot of fun together.”

Armstrong notes that he has probably worked with Hunter longer than anyone.

“I truly believe that we learned from each other,” he states. “We can always learn from someone like Joe.”

The fall season is a busy time for brand inspectors, with working days starting early in the morning and lasting until dark.

“We would work from daylight to dark, just having a lot of fun and darn sure being busy, too,” Armstrong comments.

They would get to the stockyards no later than 7:30 a.m., work through the day and then catch up on paperwork after the sun went down.

“It was a time-consuming job but a wonderful job,” he adds. “We had a lot of good times together and worked hard together, too.”

Next adventure

Hunter notes, “I enjoyed the time that I was inspector, for the most part. The good days outweighed the bad.”

He liked working with people and explained that finding strays was one of his favorite parts of the job.

“Working with cattle is what I really enjoy,” he says.

Hunter adds, “The livestock industry has certainly changed over the last 40 years.”

Marketing has been one of the biggest changes that he has seen in the industry.

“It’s amazing how marketing has changed and influenced how people sell and buy,” he comments.

Hunter’s last day as a brand inspector was Feb. 2, and now that he has retired, he will be looking for new things to occupy his time.

“I have a handful of cows, and I am going to take care of them,” Joe states. “I am also going to watch the grandkids grow up.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at

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