Cattle Thief Giving Some in Robeson a Headache

— Written By Michelle Shooter and last updated by

Unfortunately in the past several months, Robeson County producers have had to deal with a cattle thief or thieves. As most of us are aware, not only is the stress of being weaned prematurely from a cow detrimental to a calf’s health, but it also puts undue stress on the mother. In doing research for this article, I realized that this is becoming a common occurrence across the country. Just Google cattle thefts and many stories appear. The encouraging news is in many of the articles the calves were actually returned.

Of course, there are things that can be done to reduce theft, but nothing is fool proof when someone wants to steal. The scenario as relayed to me is that someone is taking newborn calves in the middle of the night/early morning from farms.  In one case, a fence was cut. In two of the cases I am aware of the stolen calves were sold locally, and in both cases the producers got their calves back. The two recovered calves were each found by their owners when the producers were notified that someone nearby was bottle-feeding a calf and had no cattle. The Robeson Sheriff has been notified and cattle markets and North Carolina Department of Agriculture staff across the state are aware and looking for anything strange.  Stealing any hooved animal in North Carolina is a felony.

If an animal is stolen from your farm the first thing to do is call the Sherriff’s Department and file an incident report. For whatever reason, most thefts related to farms are not reported; some sources say only 1 in 10 farm thefts across the country are reported. If you are in Hoke County, the Sherriff’s department number is (910) 875-5111.

Now that you are aware of the issue, try to determine what you can do on your farm to reduce the likelihood of theft loss.  Regularly check your stock and your paddocks, make sure fences are secure and gates are locked. Consider an alarm linked to gates or fences. If necessary, switch from ear tags to tattoos or brands or keep records of calf characteristics if possible. Ask your family and neighbors for help identifying suspicious vehicles or activity and keeping a look out.  Record license plate numbers of drivers and vehicles around the farm.  Move cow/calf pairs up closer to your residence before the calf is born and/or confine them in a barn at night. Consider using closed circuit televisions or cameras to record areas around the farm. Go around your property and try to look at it through the eyes of a thief. Look for areas where thieves can easily access your animals or equipment and operate without being seen. If there are dark areas consider putting in motion or security lights.  I have also heard reports across the county of raccoon hunters foiling theft plots in the early morning hours, so you may consider opening up your land to hunters you know and trust.

I know a lot of the suggestions won’t work for all farms, but the main thing to remember is to report incidents and make your family, friends, local businesses and utilities aware there could be an issue. You can also contact the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association and speak to Director, Bryan Blinson.  The North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association offers a    $1, 000 reward to people who help turn in cattle thieves, but this only applies if the producer who lost the cow is a member of the Cattlemen’s Association. The inputs on a newborn calf can add up to close to $1,000, so we all know how valuable a calf is even at birth. Let’s work together to see if we can reduce this problem.

Written By

Photo of Michelle ShooterMichelle ShooterExtension Area Agent, Agriculture - Livestock (910) 671-3276 michelle_shooter@ncsu.eduRobeson County, North Carolina
Posted on Aug 20, 2013
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