Poor Economy Causes Livestock Rustling to Spike

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An estimated 4,500 cattle have been reported missing or stolen this year in Texas and Oklahoma. And the livestock thieves seem to know exactly what they’re doing. “These guys are not your typical fly-by-night, let’s-steal-a-cow kinda people,” says a local sheriff.

The down economy has triggered all sorts of bizarre behavior, like dognapping and people who steal human hair. The latest, reported by the Associated Press, is found in the pastures of Oklahoma, where one rancher recently checked on his livestock to find two gutted Black angus calves. The thieves left the entrails and took the meat, along with another 400-pound calf. It cost the rancher around $1,800.

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The thefts are being blamed on high beef prices, which have made livestock more valuable. And it’s not just cows. According to the AP, 6,000 lambs were stolen from a feedlot in Texas and 1,000 hogs were taken from farms in Iowa and Minnesota. In each of the last two years, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (formed to prevent cattle rustling, fyi) has reported losses of $4.8 million in stolen ranch property, much of it steers, bulls, cows and calves.

Officials say that livestock bandits have become more sophisticated, pulling up trailers in the middle of the night, knowing exactly how to coax the animals inside and even replacing pasture fences that they’ve cut to get to the animals. For ranchers who aren’t regularly counting their livestock or branding them, it often takes days for them to realize their animals are missing.

(MORE: Now People Are Stealing Human Hair?)

Recently, one Colorado rancher stumbled across one of his branded cows on another man’s property. Officials later discovered 36 cows and 31 calves on the property, belonging to nine different people, all worth $68,000.