By Curtis Killman
Cattle thefts are at an all-time high in the state largely due to high beef prices, according to industry and state officials.
So far this year, ranchers across the state have reported 835 cattle thefts, a 16 percent increase compared to 2012, when about 700 cattle were stolen during the first 10 months of the year.
"I believe this is the highest that we have had historically since we have been collecting the data," said Blayne Arthur, state Department of Agriculture associate commissioner.
Arthur said the increase in thefts can be tied to the price of cattle.
"Beef prices have been trending upward over the past few years and a lot of that is due to a decrease in the beef herd, in part, due to the drought," Arthur said.
With cattle selling between $1 and $1.50 per pound, each head can easily be worth $1,000 or more, she said.
"That's quite a bit of money. If you steal 10 or 20 or 30 head, it adds up pretty quick," Arthur said.
A bill passed in 2001 authorized the state agriculture department to hire its own agents to arrest horse thieves and cattle rustlers.
Launched with just two investigators, today the agency has 10 individuals who investigate livestock thefts, arson investigations in forests and timber thefts.
"Usually, the cases that we receive come from the sheriff's office and we work collaboratively with them and OHP and OSBI," Arthur said. More....