Cattle prices could be motivation for increase in rustling

Monday, November 10th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

HOLDENVILLE, Okla. (AP) _ An increase in cattle prices could be to blame for a spike in cattle rustling.

Paul Wade, a field inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association said three thefts have been reported in the last 30 days and high cattle prices are probably driving the trend.

``A 500-pound calf could bring $500 now. A year ago, that same calf would have brought $300,'' Wade said. ``Still, cattle rustling has always gone on. People just don't start paying attention to it until the prices go up.''

Calves are selling for nearly $120 per 100 pounds. Three years ago they were selling for $103.33 per 100 pounds, and those price increases become more relevant when a seller is talking about a 450-pound steer calf.

``We have certainly not seen these levels in recent history,'' said Derrell Peel, an Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist.

``The industry has gradually been decreasing in cattle numbers for several years now. So we basically saw this coming.''

The mad-cow disease scare that closed the Canadian border in May has driven the market in a positive direction for American cattlemen.

At least two Holdenville families are convinced high prices are why they've been robbed of their calves.

Thad Tate reported the disappearance of 16 cattle on Sept. 1, cattle he says he bought for his children.

About four months earlier, Audrey and Monte Phillips _ Tate's neighbors _ reported 20 cattle stolen.

Investigators don't think the thefts are related.

``Cattle prices are at a 10-year high right now,'' Audrey Phillips said. ``We think about it all the time. Now everywhere we go we're looking at cattle and brands.''

Tate just looks at the bottom line: His cattle are gone.

``I've thought about offering a $10,000 reward,'' Tate said. ``The cattle were probably worth $8,000 or $9,000. So if I offered more than the cattle were worth, maybe someone would come forward. I don't know. It's just an absolute violation. And that bothers me.''

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