By TIM HORAN

Special to The Hays Daily News

With the price of cattle at an all-time high, area farmers and ranchers could see an increase in cattle thefts, said Anthony Ruiz, livestock production agent for the Central Kansas Extension District.

"There is always going to be a contingency of people that are looking to make a quick buck in rural Kansas, which most of Kansas is," Ruiz said. "There are cattle there, and to some people that is going to be a quick $100 or $1,000."

Farmers & Ranchers Livestock Commission's recent market report had steers selling for between $1,300 and $2,000.

"Right now, we are looking at record prices," Ruiz said. "That's a lot of money."

Cheyenne County Sheriff Cody Beeson said he is investigating the theft of 12 to 14 recently weaned Black Angus bulls and heifers. The cattle were reported missing Wednesday from a ranch south of Wheeler owned by David Ritter.

The cattle, each with a yellow tag in the left ear, were in a pen with other cattle.

"It was a quick grab-and-go," Beeson said.

The cattle were valued at an estimated $20,000.

Beeson advised ranchers to beef up security.

It wasn't the only recent incident involving cattle.

On Sept. 23, someone illegally dumped a load of cowhides north of Canton. Capt. Doug Anderson of the McPherson County Sheriff's Office, said several leads have been pursued.

"They haven't panned out," he said. "We don't have any cattle missing."

Ruiz said the hides could indicate the cattle had been stolen.

"But that isn't your run-of-the-mill rustler," he said. "That's a pretty sizable chunk of meat. Where are you going to put that? That's taking it to a whole new level.

"Most people would want to take it to the sale barn, get quick cash and be gone."

Ruiz advises ranchers to register a brand and brand the cattle, making it more difficult to sell stolen cattle by simply removing an ear identification. That would require thieves to remove the cowhides.

However, Mike Samples, manager of Farmers & Ranchers Livestock of Salina, said brands are not checked in Saline County. He said, though, he will report cattle theft.

"If people inform us, we keep an eye out. If there is something suspicious, we try to curtail it," he said. "We try to do everything we can."

Ruiz said ranchers should change their routines and not feed at the same time so potential thieves can't take advantage of a schedule.

"Another thing is to install some deer cameras," he said. "Take a look at who's coming onto your property. Any way you can be vigilant to know what's going on at your operation when you're not there will help."

Ruiz said the cow herd nationwide is as low as it has been since the 1960s.