Colorado’s first female brand inspector reflects on 40 years in the business
September 29, 2016
When Debbie Veltri first started her career as a cattle brand inspector 40 years ago, some were skeptical of her ability to do the job.
She was a woman, after all, and no woman had ever done it.
But with a good attitude and a little patience, she showed her talent as the first female inspector in the state of Colorado.
Some of the older producers weren't keen on having her out to check their cattle those first few years, she said.
“If I’d wanted an office job, I’d have changed jobs a lot time ago.”- Debbie Veltri
"I had to prove myself," she said. "At first it was a little hard. But I made sure to do my job."
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"When you have a problem, you call her, and she comes in and fixes it.— Cheryl Willey, Veltri's coworker
Brand inspectors are in charge of checking out the cattle and livestock that are for sale and making sure all of the sale money goes to the right producers. They check the proof of ownership and make certain it's marked correctly on all of the paperwork. It's a big deal when sale money goes to the wrong producers, so they don't like to get it wrong.
Veltri said she understood the need for proof of her ability, even though she started when she was 22, so she kept her head down and just kept doing a good job.
Now people in the industry rave about her thoroughness and attention to detail.
They also speak highly of Veltri's general demeanor. In fact, many ask for her specifically.
But after four decades of service, she's ready to retire. Well, mostly. Veltri said she knows she'll be back to help even after her Sept. 30 retirement, but not for a while.
"I ain't gonna come back the first week in October, I know that," Veltri said with a laugh.
She's not quite sure what she wants to do with her time in retirement, but she wants to use some of that time to decide.
She said it's been a fun ride, and she enjoyed her job all these years. She's been through a lot with her coworkers, including a car accident that laid her up for a while a few years ago.
Even after that debacle, Veltri made it back into the field as quickly as she could, with a smile on her face.
Veltri started when she was only 22 years old. She said she passed the inspector test and started right away. She drew inspiration from her family's farm in Trinidad, where she worked with all kinds of livestock.
"I always admired the brand inspector in Trinidad," she said.
People who know Veltri say she's never known a stranger.
As soon as she meets someone, she makes them a friend. That's a quality that comes in handy in her line of work.
"That's the kind of person she is," said Shannon Farmer, who has worked with Veltri for the past decade. "She's one of the most congenial people I've ever met in my life."
"When you have a problem, you call her, and she comes in and fixes it," said Cheryl Willey, another of Veltri's longtime coworkers.
No matter how people have felt about her or she about them, Veltri has always felt at ease among the cattle. They've trusted her from day one.
Last Wednesday — sale day — Veltri wound through the pens in the sale yard, where the animals are kept before the auctions. It's almost like she could do it with her eyes closed.
Even near the pen with newly weaned calves — where there is a nonstop chorus of loud, distressed mooing — Veltri is at peace.
"They're just getting used to the hay," she said as she walked past. "They miss their moms. They miss the milk."
When they're getting ready for the sale, Veltri and her coworker Spud go into some of the pens together to check for the brand marks.
They joke back and forth while jotting things down on the little pink slips, like a bill of ownership for a car, except these are for livestock.
Like most lifelong cowgirls, Veltri feels more at home in the fields than in the office.
"If I'd wanted an office job, I'd have changed jobs a lot time ago," she said.