After eight years on the job as a livestock brand inspector for the state, Ron Balkowitsch still finds the job exciting. “People call 911 to report animals are on their property, he says. “Animal control doesn’t deal with larger animals and it is not the sheriff’s department’s job, so I get the call. One caller said there was a ‘strange’ animal in her yard and wanted it picked up. It was a pig.”
Name: Ron Balkowitsch.
Job/employer: Washington Department of Agriculture.
Education/professional background: After graduating from Fort Vancouver High School in 1964, I went to college with the idea of becoming a veterinarian. For several reasons, I realized I wasn’t going to be a vet. Growing up, we lived close to the railroad tracks and I liked to ride trains, so when I learned they were looking for engineers, I applied. From 1966 until 2006, I was a locomotive engineer.
After I retired from the railroad, I took classes in forestry and wildlife conservation and forestry log scaling. I also went to Montana and attended auctioneer school.
I have always raised registered Angus cows, and my children and grandchildren have been involved in 4-H. When I learned the state was seeking a livestock inspector, I was interested. In 2006, I was one of 12 people who took a test for the job. I was hired, and it has been an exciting job.
Most rewarding part of job: Helping people move their livestock in a proper manner.
What I do: There are state controls to make sure transactions are legal for cattle and horses. We track down the rightful owner of stray or abandoned animals. Animals being transported or sold need to have proper paperwork and be checked by a veterinarian to make sure the animal has no disease.
I spend half my time at animal-processing plants making sure all the animals being sold have all the correct documents. A veterinarian also checks all animals for illness and disease.
Transporting or selling animals across state lines, coming or going, requires a livestock inspection and a health certificate. They are to be checked by a vet to prevent the spread of disease.
Cattle rustlers: Even today, we have a lot of cattle rustling. It is a fast way for a thief to pick up an animal with no brand or proof of ownership, sell it, and take the money and run. We have a program with five Western states which exchanges information about lost or stolen animals. This program helps stop the rustling.
In the last several years, thieves tend to steal expensive saddles, bridles and other tack, which is easier to sell than an animal.
Most challenging part of job: It takes a lot of patience when you are dealing with the public. I don’t like it when someone lies, but I try to give them another chance.
Personal/business philosophy: To stay positive. I strive to do something good every day. I am a Christian and I try to do a good job.
Residence: Dollars Corner.
Best feature of my Vancouver/Clark County community: We have great weather. It is a beautiful area and the growth is astounding.
What would make your community a better place: I think under our new charter system, the three county councilors have to work closer with the people that put them in the office. They need to work together because their decisions affect everybody. They should be upfront and honest because it pays off in the long run.
Favorite restaurants: Lucky Dragon Chinese Restaurant in Kalama and Chevy’s in Lake Oswego, Ore.
Hobbies: I like collecting antique dairy equipment, railroad model trains, singing and attending my grandchildren’s sports events.
Volunteer activities: I am quite involved in my church and sing with the worship team. My wife and I are trying to start a ministry which will donate clothes to younger children.
Favorite travel destination: I like going to the Oregon and Washington coasts, clamming and visiting our sons in Idaho.
Most interesting books recently: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand and “Journey in the Great Depression” by John Lifflander.
Most interesting play/movie/arts event: “God’s Not Dead,” a Christian drama film I thought was quite entertaining.
One thing you want to do this year: Open up to other people’s needs more often. It would be a better place to live if we had more patience with people.
Something you want to do within five years: Maybe retire and open an auction business for nonprofits.
One word to describe yourself: Positive.
Person you’d most like to meet: Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.
Brands: The origin of branding livestock dates from 2700 B.C. Paintings in Egyptian tombs document branding oxen with hieroglyphics. Each brand is by necessity different than all the others and often conveys the character of the owner. There are more than 6,400 registered brands in the state of Washington and three to five new brands registered every day.
What’s that animal? People call 911 to report animals are on their property. Animal control doesn’t deal with larger animals and it is not the sheriff’s department’s job, so I get the call. One caller said there was a “strange” animal in her yard and wanted it picked up. It was a pig.