By Amy Bickel
The crime occurred at the end of a dead-end road in a part of Kansas where there is still open range.
Thieves left the Barber County pasture with a hefty paycheck - at least $30,000 worth of cattle.
Yes, rustling still occurs on the now-settled prairie. No, it's not the image out of an Old West movie where the sheriff hunts down rustlers and hangs them from the nearest tree. Today's cattle thieves are far different in an era of barbed wire, good roads and big trucks.
Yet the bounty is the same as they purloin thousands of dollars worth of loot by way of beef.
That includes a potential big take in one of the state's latest cases that happened in Barber County in early November. A rancher near Sharon discovered 29 head of mostly black heifers missing from his Gyp Hills pasture in an area of limited traffic, said Barber County Extension Agent Tim Marshall.
The increase in thefts is being spurred by record high cattle prices this fall - above $1.30 a pound.
"Some are making 1,000 bucks a head or a little better," Marshall said, adding that the $30,000 take-home is the effort of one "good night's work."
A few days before, Anthony Livestock Sales, a Harper County auction market, reported to the Harper County Sheriff that its business had 29 head of cattle stolen around Nov. 3. The black Angus cattle were branded on the left hip and weighed about 425 pounds each.
Meanwhile, around the same date, a rancher reported 14 head of spring calves stolen near Marysville in northeast Kansas.
The latest case, however, was in early December in Stafford County, said Joel Blogref, a Sedgwick County Sheriff's deputy who runs the Construction Agriculture Livestock Information Network, a statewide network that alerts those in the industry to the latest rural thefts.
On the evening of Dec. 3, three groups of cattle, a total of 23 head, were stolen in the county. The first group included 11 mostly solid black heifers with a PLLC brand on the right hip. The second group included 10 mostly solid black steers and heifers with no brand. The third group was a Charolais steer and heifer - both with no brand.
The thieves even took a 24-foot white Titan gooseneck trailer. The cattle and trailer were noticed missing on Dec. 4.
Blogref said it seems as if there is an uptick in thefts this year compared to others - especially in sparsely populated areas like the Gyp Hills region where there is limited law enforcement.
He also thought there are more cases across Kansas that aren't being reported. A producer could be missing one or two head of cattle and not know whether they were stolen or strayed. More....