History: Dogie John rides again

Reprinted from the October 1949 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

By columnist John Walters, Bremoor, Alta.

I am going to give you a little horn tax history. In order to do that it will be necessary to go back about 25 years and all the things I say may not be absolutely correct but no matter how far off the beam I may be I still won’t be as grossly incorrect as some aspects of the administration of the Alta. horn tax trust account has been during the last few years.

To start with the packers discovered that they were loosing quite a lot of money through damaged meat and hides on account of horned cattle hooking each other. So the got the various Dept’s of Agriculture and the farm press interested and gave the farmers and ranchers a barage of propaganda in favour of dehorning cattle followed for a short time with a slight premium on dehorned cattle. This in turn was followed by a discount or penalty of $1.00 per head on horned cattle. Instructions were published somewhat as follows in the farm press for dehorning calves. Use a fine pair of hair clippers and clip the hair around where the calf’s horn was going to be and smear with vasiline, hold a stick of caustic wraped in brown paper between the thumb and index finger and rub the horn gently. Keep the calf in a dry stall in the barn a couple of days and repeat, keep him a few more days then it was supposed to be safe to turn him out to grow into a number one choice steer that could go anywhere and sell tax free as long as the income tax dept. dident know about it. Well the ranchers caught on petty quick and made a success of calf dehorning. They dident have fine hair clippers or vasiline or dry stalls for their calves but they got the horns off.

Johny Johnson had a ½ dozen calves, his wife had a pair of fine hair clippers and a jar of vailine. He had read the instructions, he had a barn with a dry stall in it and the local druggist had caustic that the wholesale drug employees had broken up into very short pieces so that they could put it in bottles with a scoop instead of having to pick it up a stick at a time with tweasers. So Johny got the caustic, the clippers and vasiline and brown paper and went to work. There was a good deal of sand in the hair on the calves heads and it ruined the clippers, he droped the vasiline jar in the dirt, the brown paper got wet because the caustic started to run when the air got at it and to start with the druggist hadent made a very good job of wraping it. Johny got the calves dehorned but wound up with a sore thumb and finger, and his feet badly tramped. His wife made him get her a new pair of clippers and another jar of vasiline. And the following Sunday when he stuck his hand in his pocket to see if he had his snooze his hand went out through the side of his coat. Johny has been selling horned cattle and paying the $1.00 a head penalty every since.

Well this brings us up to between 12 and 15 years ago when relations between the meat packing industry and the various branches of live stock producton were not so pleasant as they are at the present time. We had an election about then and among other things we got a new minister of agriculture that operated a feed yard in private life and definitely dident like the horn penalty. He said it was a fine for not dehorning cattle and he guessed maybe it was necessary but if anybody fined Alta farmers the Govt would do it and put the money in a horn tax trust account and use it for the benefit of the cattle industry. When the act was passed every body took it for granted that live stock meant cattle so the act read live stock instead of cattle. No body paid much attention to it anyway at that time because they thought it would only amount to a few thousand dollars a year and in a comparatively short time the act would die a natural death on account of a lack of horns. But the Johny Johnsons have increased till now the tax is taking between $700,000 and $800,000 out of the cattle industry and the boys in the Dept. of Agriculture realized that livestock was a big word and had lots of possibilitys. Billy Jones was a horse trader and pretty smooth as a most horse traders are but still things were not going to good with him so he went to the Dept. of Agriculture and said I am in the horse business. You have got to help me or I have got to go out of bussiness then where would the ranchers get saddle stock to round up their cattle and work horses to haul feed to them when the snow is deep. Well the Minister seen the point of Billys argument and after all the act read live stock so he appropriated a few thousand dollars for horse promotion. . The result of this line of thought has been that this horn penalty trust account has become a veritable slush fund. Fairly large amounts of money have been taken out of it and used for fair grants, swine improvement, poultry promotion, sheep improvement, a large amount of it has been used for a pathological laboratory which in turn is largely used for the study of mink and black fox. According to 1947 public accounts the Alta Federation of Agriculture got a good big slice of it. So it would appear that even the top hands of Altas various Co-Op and other agricultural associations are classed as live stock. The present Minister of Agriculture defends the principle of using horn tax money for the benefit of the swine and poultry and various livestock industrys other than cattle on the grounds that as a general rule these same people own cattle. Following that line of arguement to its logical conclusion it would be quite in order to put a special tax on suberban corner grocery stores to subsidize big down town department stores on the ground that they both sell prunes.

I would suggest that cattlemen get bussey and contact their local M.L.A’s and have them see that the horn penalty act is amended to read cattle instead of livestock otherwize we might wake up some day and find that some of the money is being used for the benefit of the margerine and fishing industrys — who knows . In conclusion I will say that the only men that loose with money on horned cattle are the ones that raise them. Horned cattle are far more belligernt among them selves around water tanks and feed bunks and racks than dehorned cattle are. The packer don’t loose anything, he just bids anywhere from a nickel to a ¼ less a hundred lbs for them and the Govt fines you a dollar. And when the calves are little 5¢ will cover the cost of taking the horns off them with out any risk to your self or the calf.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. You can reach us via the editor at [email protected].

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