Longview, TX — Bill Thompson had been a cattle rancher for more than 40 years before he was hit by thieves for the first time.
In the past few years, Thompson has lost 15 branded cows to cattle rustlers, which he said were valued from $700 to $800 a head. And this past week, cattle thieves attempted to steal six of his replacement heifers from a property on FM 322 in Rusk County.
“Back in the old days, if someone got down on their luck, they’d go talk to people and someone would give you a calf,” Thompson said. “But not in this day and time. They don’t even talk to you — they just take ‘em.”
A sagging economy and high beef prices have stock thefts on the rise. Rustling is increasing from the so-called beef belt in Texas and Oklahoma to other beef-producing states in the Midwest and South.
But today’s rustlers aren’t like those you’d see in the movies, said Larry Hand, a special ranger with the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
“They don’t wear bandanas and try to corral the cattle on their horses,” he said. “They cut your fence, back a cattle trailer into the pasture and corral as many as they can with four-wheelers.”
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