Belinda Garland, former Torrance County deputy manager, is New Mexico’s first female executive director of the state’s Livestock Board.

Garland, who began her new position Dec. 9, was appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Garland told The Independent she is a fourth-generation rancher in Torrance County. “I was raised on a ranch, worked hard on a ranch, didn’t have any brothers.”

She said she has always been in the livestock industry, adding, “That’s what I truly love. I love my cattle; I’m very passionate about my animals.”

She earned bachelor’s degrees in animal science and agricultural business from Panhandle State University in Oklahoma.

She said she has over 28 years of state government experience and has held positions at Tax and Revenue, Human Services and the Gaming Control Board, before moving to county manager in Torrance County and then deputy county manager.

Asked about being the first woman in the position, Garland said, “I’m glad they brought that out,” but said her hire was “more about what I know.” She said the Livestock Board has female inspectors, including its first female area supervisor.

“Our job is to protect the livestock industry and the producers. We do brand inspections and criminal investigations on livestock theft,” Garland said. “We also have the state veterinary office here, [which] oversees all of the diseases for the livestock and controls those rules and laws.”

Garland said the board oversees horses, cattle, sheep, goats, poultry and pigs. Their brand inspections also include racehorses and dairy cows, she said.

The nine-member board, including eight members appointed by the governor in August, must meet at least twice per year, according to Garland, but, she added, “They’re going to want to meet more often, probably once a quarter.”

The Livestock Board is scheduled to met Dec. 12 at the cattle growers convention in Albuquerque, which is Garland’s first meeting of the board.

She said, “My time at the county taught me a lot about budgets, so I’ll be able to deal with the budget better here.”

Cattle rustling does occur, she said, adding, “If people brand and mark their animals properly, there’s a good chance of recovery.”

She continued, “We are considered a law enforcement agency. A lot of our inspectors are law enforcement certified; the agency now has two investigators.”

Garland said there have been “some recoveries with animals going back to their owners; that’s really good, that’s effectiveness.”

She cited her agency’s recent arrest of a man from Lovington who was charged and convicted of 15 felonies involving stolen cattle being transported to Texas.

When highway accidents occur involving livestock transport, and when there are fires that require moving animals, the agency responds and is involved in rescuing animals, she said. “I’m going to delve more into that now that I know more about emergency management from working at the county.”

Garland said the Livestock Board handles animal cruelty charges for larger animals as well. She said they also sometimes gather wild mustangs if they don’t have proper forage “and protect the welfare of those animals as well.”