The Norman Transcript

Business

March 2, 2014

Hay and cattle theft on the rise

(Continued)

NORMAN —

One other reason for the uptick in theft is the economy and rising costs. The slow economic recovery hasn’t yet come to some areas of rural Oklahoma leaving some willing to accept the high risk of cattle theft, regardless of the stiff penalties currently in place.

This is again due to the fact that high cattle prices make even a handful of used-up cows worth tens of thousands of dollars. The potential payoff has increased the number of cattle thefts in Oklahoma to a record high during a time when herd sizes are at all times lows.

While overall numbers are down, Oklahoma was one of a few states on January 1 showing the clearest signs of beef cow herd rebuilding. The Oklahoma beef cow herd was up 51,000 head (2.9 percent year over year), second only to Kansas and Missouri in the absolute increase in cow numbers. The Oklahoma inventory of beef replacement heifers was up 45,000 head (16.1 percent year over year), the largest increase in beef replacement heifers among all states. Still, this increase in beef cow numbers is only a beginning. Oklahoma’s beef cow herd is still down 10.5 percent from January 1, 2011, in the big picture meaning some ranchers don’t have many more cows for thieves to steal if any at all.

In light of this, many ranchers are paying closer attention to their herd numbers these days to prevent theft. All in all, we know the rebuilding process has a long way to go yet even as such, cattle theft doesn’t show any signs of slowing down as most experts believe prices will continue to rise sharply.

The high numbers of cattle thefts are being intensely investigated by agents with local law enforcement and with the Investigative Services Unit of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

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