Beef prices at all time highs are resulting in problems that would be familiar to Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson in the Texas of 150 years ago…cattle rustling.
Carmen Fenton of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association tells 1200 WOAI news that rustling has spiked in the last couple of years, as beef prices have skyrocketed, due largely to the ongoing Texas drought, which has made cattle feed more expensive and has prompted many ranchers to sell their herds and get into another line of work.
Fenton says while you see cattle, rustlers see the animals as ‘ATMs with hooves’
“You can take that cow to the sale barn that same day, and sell it, and get what its worth,” she said. “And right now, they’re worth a lot.”
She says the result is that ranchers who are already stretched thin by the drought have to invest in new security to protect their herds from rustlers.
“I am branding them, I am watching them, I cannot afford to lose a single one of them to theft,” she said.
Cattle ranching by its very nature requires far-flung pastures, with many of the cows spending a lot of time far from places which are frequented by people.
Cattle ranchers are responding to the surge in rustling with high tech devices, from remote controlled cameras in the pastures to sensors on the fences to detect if they have been cut, to specially adapted cattle guards to deter unwanted vehicles from driving onto the ranch land.
But in Texas, they don’t hang cattle thieves any more. It is generally third degree theft, based on the value of the cattle stolen, and it will get the rustler 2-10 years in prison.