NORMAN — The drought began fall of 2010 and still rages today in southwest Oklahoma. This situation has caused hay to be in short supply for those who still have cattle and caused some criminals to pull bold moves such as stealing hay and even the cattle eating it. In fact, in response to the rise of hay theft, sheriffs in some counties began installing GPS tracking devices in round bales of hay designed to send a text message to the sheriff when moved. This operation has yielded numerous hay thieves caught in the act since these ingenious devices have been deployed.
While hay prices were up in 2011 and 2012 across much of Oklahoma, these prices have regulated themselves after good rains fell last summer across central and eastern Oklahoma. However, while hay prices have gone down in some areas, beef is a different story. In fact, red meat is taking on more of a gold color these days as cattle prices are at all-time highs and climbing.
This is a great time to sell cattle for those ranchers who are still lucky enough to have them after years of drought in many parts of our state. While ranchers are making big money off their bovines a darker side to this price trend is higher rates of cattle theft. The risk versus reward consideration is becoming more contemplated every day as beef prices continue to soar.
Record beef prices are one reason more thieves are trespassing on private property and stealing cattle. Some point to criminals feeding drug addictions while other point to the rise in hobby ranches as another possible reason. Many of these ranches are owned by urban professionals or absentee landowners who visit the property infrequently. This leaves cattle less supervised and easier to steal.
Another factor that makes cattle theft easier these days, especially in dry western Oklahoma, is that cattle grazing on abused, dried-up pasture are hungry. During drought, cattle grazing on abused pastures are more easily coaxed into pens and trailers because they are hungry.