Rustling on the rise in Missouri, across U.S.
By Kevin Murphy - The Kansas City Star
Rustling is not just a crime of the Old West, Missouri ranchers have learned after a series of livestock thefts that now are the focus of a statewide investigation.
Working usually at night, thieves have stolen hundreds of cattle in 29 counties during the past year, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. In all, some $500,000 in cattle disappeared in at least 82 incidents, state officials said.
“They are pretty brazen,” said Bob Herndon, who raises cattle near Marionville in southwest Missouri.
Herndon should know. In October, someone got through fences on Herndon’s property as he slept and made off with 25 calves in a large trailer.
“They put them in my corral, sorted them and took what they wanted,” Herndon said.
Presumably, stolen cattle are sold at auction barns to unsuspecting buyers. Cattle are bringing rising prices, and $800 per head is not unusual, said Brent Bryant, executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association.
With more than 2.1 million head, Missouri is second only to Texas in beef cattle numbers, and the rash of thefts has drawn the attention of Gov. Matt Blunt, who last week created a task force to address the problem. Most of the cattle were reported stolen in the southwest and central areas of the state.
“Missouri has long been a proud agricultural state, and we will simply not tolerate these crimes against honest, law-abiding citizens,” Blunt said.
Kansas has not experienced a recent spike in cattle thefts, said George Teagarden, livestock commissioner for the state Animal Health Department.
But Missouri is not alone in the rustling problem.
“It appears the trend is increasing nationally,” said Gregg Doud, chief economist for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
As an example, the Houston Chronicle reported that thieves had made off with about 450 head of cattle worth at least $500,000 from suburban Houston counties in the last six months.
Doud attributed the rise in thefts to a 50 percent increase in cattle prices in the past five years.