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Cattle Theft Becomes a Huge Threat to Ranchers as Beef Prices Soar

Published by Ellen on May 2, 2012 1:54 PM

With cattle selling at around $1,000 each and bulls selling for $1,500 to $2,000, cattle thieves have a clear-cut motive for raiding ranches and farms, and stealing as many cattle as they can get their hands on. Just one job can easily turn into a $20,000 cattle heist. In 2010 and 2011, Texas and the Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) claimed losses of $4.8 million in stolen ranch property, including bulls, steers, cows, and calves. Cattle theft is becoming more commonplace in states that boast lucrative agricultural markets. The increase in beef prices and appeal of selling cattle at a hefty profit has been enough to pique the interest of cunning thieves who are well aware that multi-acre ranches aren't usually protected by sophisticated - or any - video surveillance systems.

What's most disturbing is that law enforcement is usually left with few leads to work with. Thieves often act in the middle of the night, with ranchers waking up to find half of their herd missing (and in some cases their entire herd). Some of the more savvy cattle rustlers will actually use helicopters to come down and swoop up cattle, while others simply round up one or two at a time on a truck and drive out. The problem is that the ranch owner is ultimately considered responsible for watching over their cattle and heeding to their every move. More efforts must be made to ensure the safety and security of the cattle without the rancher or farmer having to be out on the field every moment of the day.

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States like Texas are not the only victims of this type of crime. Cattle ranchers in Oregon have been urged to look out for suspicious activity due to the upswing in cattle theft. Also referred to as an "Old West Crime," cattle theft is gaining momentum not just in Southwestern states but also on the West Coast, particularly during calving season, which takes place in the spring. Rodger Huffman, State Brand Inspector with the Oregon Department of Agriculture Animal Health and Identification Division avers, "The value of cattle has increased incrementally as well. Certainly, that might increase the temptation to steal someone's livestock."

Ranch and farm owners with livestock are encouraged to invest in top-of-the-line video surveillance systems to monitor their property when they're not able to, which is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Marvin Willis, a theft investigator for the TSCRA, offers up the following advice on how ranchers can better protect their cattle operations against rustlers: "There are a lot of new ways to protect your cattle and property. The price has come down on video surveillance, which can be effective in identifying thieves. As a typical thing, they're not looking up into the trees when they're doing their business." Cattle ranchers would greatly benefit from outdoor wireless IP camera systems that are able to monitor large outdoor spaces in a wide range of temperatures. One thing is for certain: these cattle thieves will continue unless better security measures are applied as soon as possible.

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