Okie Economics: Why Cattle Rustling is on the Rise

  • Joe Wertz

Soonerpa / Flickr

Money doesn’t grow in Oklahoma pastures, but it might graze in them.

While the profit margin on commonly stolen items like household electronics and jewelry is low — even for legitimate sellers — livestock brings big bucks.

Cattle theft is on the rise in Oklahoma. Why? Simple economics.

“It’s a combination of the economy being down and cattle prices being up,” John Cummings, a Claremore-based special ranger with the Cattle Raisers Association tells the Tulsa World’s Rhett Morgan.

More than 13,000 head of cattle and horses were stolen in 2011, while the annual average from 2008-2010 was around 7,000, the paper reports.

The total market loss of livestock, saddle and trailer thefts in 2011 was almost $4.3 million, according to data from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Livestock Market

High cattle prices have been driven, in part, by the drought in Oklahoma and Texas, the World reports.

Ranchers faced with water and feed issues had to sell off their herds in 2011. And because of high property prices, the land ranchers lease is often spread out — sometimes over three or four counties, the paper reports.

Big swatches of unattended land attract brazen rustlers. And, unfortunately, the tools of the illegal trade — pickups and trailers — are commonplace in rural Oklahoma.

Most cattle are stolen in broad daylight, Cummings said.