A Kansas livestock expert is urging farmers and ranchers to take precautions against rustlers as historically high cattle prices make the animals a prime target for thieves.
Steers were selling between $1,300 and $2,000 per head in late November, according to a Farmers & Ranchers Livestock Commission's market report.
"Right now we are looking at record prices," said Anthony Ruiz, livestock production agent for the Central Kansas Extension District. "That's a lot of money."
Earlier this month someone stole a dozen or more Black Angus bulls and heifers — worth an estimated $20,000 — from a northwest Kansas ranch, The Salina Journal reported.
The cattle were reported missing Nov. 19 from a Cheyenne County ranch south of Wheeler.
"It was a quick grab-and-go," Cheyenne County Sheriff Cody Beeson said.
In September, someone dumped a load of cowhides in McPherson County. The Sheriff's Office said it received several leads but none panned out.
Ruiz said the hides could indicate that the cattle had been stolen.
"But that isn't your run-of-the-mill rustler," he said. "That's a pretty sizable chunk of meat. Where are you going to put that? That's taking it to a whole new level."
Ruiz advises ranchers to register a brand and brand their cattle, making it harder to sell stolen cattle by simply removing an ear identification tag. He also encourages ranchers to change their routines and not feed at the same time so potential thieves can't take advantage of a schedule.
"Another thing is to install some deer cameras," he said. "Take a look at who's coming onto your property. Any way you can be vigilant to know what's going on at your operation when you're not there will help."
The U.S. cattle herd is as low as it has been since the 1960s, causing prices to surge, Ruiz said.