An investigator with the Kingman County Sheriff’s Office is trying to find out who stole four baby calves from a ranch this week.
The case is one of several active cattle theft investigations across Kansas.
Investigator Dustin Cooke says cattle thefts have increased in the last few years, and the crime is hitting ranchers hard.
"It’s a high dollar theft," he says. "Higher dollar than a car sometimes."
Cooke says the missing calves are valued at about $400 a piece right now and will triple in value in six months as they grow.
"Baby calves are on the market right now for $300-$400 a piece. So this guy lost $1200 just in baby calves," Cooke says. "Well, $1200 in another six months is going to be what those [calves] are worth individually. So that’s a loss of more than $4000 when you think about it."
Several cattle theft cases that happened in Kingman County in the past two years are still being investigated. The number of stolen cattle varies by case. Cooke says they often don't have many leads.
"These are probably some of the most difficult cases to investigate because you don’t have a lot of physical evidence at the scene other than maybe some tracks. So what you have to do is you have to get the information out there," Cooke says.
He warns local markets to be on alert in case someone brings stolen cattle to a sale day.
He says people who steal cattle often target rural areas with easy access to herds.
Cooke’s advice to cattle producers: use branding and regular headcounts to keep track of cattle, as well as locking up gates.
Steady market prices for cattle may have sparked the increase in theft cases.
Cooke keeps track of the crime trend through reports from the Kansas Department of Agriculture and law enforcement social media channels.
At least 71 cattle have been taken in five cases reported in Neosho, Crawford and Labette counties since August.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office added a Livestock/Brand Inspection Unit in 2014, in partnership with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The unit combats cattle theft throughout the state by responding to requests from local law enforcement for assistance in investigations.
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