Cattle Rustling on the Rise in Central Texas

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MCLENNAN COUNTY (March 18, 2012) -- These days it's cattle that are bringing in the bacon for local rangers.

A spike in beef prices, along with a smaller supply of cattle because of the drought is leading to an increase in cattle rustling, or cattle theft, across much of Central Texas.

One bull can now go for close to $2000 at auction, some of the highest prices ranchers have seen in years.

The higher price tag on cattle can often lead to more work for Marvin C. Wills, a special ranger with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

"our cattle are a little shorter and people are stealing them a little bit more," said Wills. "cattle's one of the few items you can steal and get the same cash value for the next day."

In the last year alone the special rangers tackled more than 1,000 cases in Texas and Oklahoma, a number that is only expected to grow."

Ranchers like Clarence Howard are taking extra precautions to make sure they don't become victims of cattle thieves.

"you'd be surprised how many animals are not branded," said Howard. "sometimes it'll be their loss because they lose them."

Howard uses both old fashioned brands as well as liquid nitrogen branding. He's even considered more "modern" methods of tracking his livestock.

"they came out now with microchipping your horse," said Howard. "or whatever animal you have, you can track it."

When it comes to prevention many agree that branding is your best bet.

"we have a 90% recovery rate on these cattle if they're branded," said Wills. "that's the number one deal. If you don't brand your cattle the chances of getting them back are pretty slim."

If caught, cattle thieves can be charged starting with a third degree felony per head of cattle.