CATTLE RUSTLING ON THE RISE IN ALABAMA
MONTGOMERY, Ala., -- The number of cattle stolen in Alabama has almost doubled in the past two years, and one Montgomery County Farmers Federation member can testify when it happens, it hits you where it hurts most - your bank account.
|Montgomery County Farmers Federation member Morris Boyd, right, discusses the recent theft of cattle from his farm with Robert Holley, chief investigator with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.|
"They've hit me twice this year," said Morris Boyd, 62, who has 162 head of brood cows on his farm south of Montgomery near the Snoudown community. "In all, it's probably set me back close to $12,000. That doesn't include what I could have made off the calves those cows would have had the next few years. It just makes me sick, and it makes me mad."
Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Director Raleigh Wilkerson said he believes the increase in cattle theft has a direct correlation with the increase in cattle prices.
"Now that cattle are bringing a good prices, it seems like the thieves are willing to take more risks because the cattle will sell for more," Wilkerson said. "One of the best deterrents for cattle thieves is branding and keeping gates and catch pens locked. Also look out for livestock trailers traveling at night."
Robert Holley, chief investigator for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, said in 1999 there were 116 head of cattle stolen in the state. In 2000, the number jumped to 160, and so far this year the number already has exceeded 200 head. He said typically, they steal calves that weigh 400-500 pounds, adding that several stockyards, particularly in north Alabama, have had cattle stolen this year. But recently, most cattle have been stolen from farms, he said.
"Usually, they'll go in and pen the cattle in the farmer's own catch pen," Holley said. "The best way around that is to have your pen close to your house so you can keep an eye on your cattle and to brand your cows and calves."
But most cattlemen in the state are probably like Boyd, who knows each of his cows on sight, but has a hard time describing them in specific terms that can be used to identify them if they're stolen. He said he believes the stolen cattle were sold at auction, probably out of state. He said he doesn't hold out much hope of getting his cattle back, but he hopes reward money being offered by Alfa Farmers and a group of private producers will act as an incentive to get someone to talk about the crime. The Alabama Farmers Federation offers a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons committing theft on the property of any Alfa Farmers member who has the Federation sign posted.
Boyd and other cattlemen in his area have added $400 more to the reward. Livestock theft in Alabama is a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Holley said cattlemen should report any theft immediately to their local sheriff's department and call his office at the Department of Agriculture and Industries at 1-800-642-7761, ext. 7208.