MISSION, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Finding stray livestock is almost an everyday occurrence in Hidalgo County, officials say.

But where do these farm animals go after they are rounded up?

Oscar Jaimez, livestock officer for the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, told ValleyCentral that Texas law requires the county be responsible for picking up and caring for all loose livestock.

The county is required to care for the animals for 15 days and send out a public notice.

“The law says we have to post a public notice for 15 days,” Jaimez said. “We don’t put a picture of the animals because, of course, someone is gonna describe that animal to the T with a picture and claim ownership. So, pretty much, we give a general description of the animal and where it was picked up and then people come to us or I’ll go knock on doors in the area.”

Jaimez said the county utilizes two cowboys in Hidalgo County to round up livestock. The cowboys hold the animals in Mission and Mercedes, using Highway 281 as a dividing point for their round-up territories.

Most recently, two stray horses were reported to the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. One commercial female horse with white and brown spots was impounded near 21314 Texas Road in Mission. The other, a commercial male with a light brown coat was also found near 21314 Texas Road

Both cases are still pending.

Livestock is never killed by the county, Jaimez said. If there are any injuries on the animals then they are deferred to animal cruelty investigators.

Most livestock — such as horses, pigs and goats — do not even make it to auction. Only cattle go to public auction in Edinburg, Jaimez said.

Owners must sign affidavits claiming ownership of their livestock to get their animals returned to them. Owners must then also pay for the cowboy’s services during the 15 days that an animal was in their care.

Jaimez said service fees depend on the cowboy and how much trouble he had picking up the animal and what time of day or night it was.

The cowboys charge $10 a day for food and water during the 15 days. After 15 days, there is a public hearing with a judge and often the judge decides to award the horse to the cowboy, Jaimez said.

“Sometimes it’s easy to pick up a wild horse or what appears to be a wild horse and sometimes it’s difficult to round up,” Jaimez said.