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Despite Higher Prices, No Surge in Cattle Thefts

June 9, 2014
BT Heifer Hereford Flint Hills 2

While higher cattle prices may make ag producers more aware of thieves, authorities don't believe it will result in more theft.

Cattle rustling has always been a problem in Nebraska, as Wild West images of rowdy rustlers and hangings come to mind. Today, ranchers rely on brand inspectors and county sheriff's deputies to keep their herds safe.

Most of the enforcement of cattle thefts falls to the Nebraska Brand Committee, which has 44 full-time brand inspectors, 48 seasonal inspectors and four criminal investigators.

While it is impossible to determine how many cattle are stolen annually, Brand Committee investigators recovered 1,276 head in fiscal year2013. The recovered cattle were worth an estimated $1.322 million.

So far, from July 2013 to February 2014, the Brand Committee has recovered 862 head; however, just 664 head of cattle were reported missing during the same period. The recovered cattle were worth an estimated $2.648 million.

So while the loss in dollars is higher, it isn't because of more theft.

"According to our records, reports of cattle theft has been pretty consistent over the last few years," said Steve Stanec, executive director of the Brand Committee, which is headquartered in Alliance. "We haven't seen any major increases in the number of reports."

Adams County Sheriff Gregg Magee said his office has only handled one cattle theft case this year and three head are missing.

"We are not aware of an increase in our locality. The potential is there because of the increases in prices that the cattle are going for," Magee said.

He said his office investigates an average of three cattle theft cases annually.

"It's not uncommon that we receive reports of missing cattle," he said.

Ronna Morse, manager of the Sandhills Cattle Association in Valentine, said she doesn't think that cattle theft numbers are on the rise but that higher priced cattle do make a tempting target.

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