A bull relaxes in the heat of the sun in Hyrum on Tuesday Aug. 2, 2022.
TAYLORSVILLLE—Cattle rustling was a big deal in the 1800’s. Early western television shows normally had an episode or two about stealing cattle. And just as cattle stealing was big then it is making it’s way back in rural counties across the Beehive State.
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) is getting reports of a large number of missing and harmed livestock this year, adding to an alarming and upward trend that has been increasing over the past few years.
“Our department has been investigating a substantial amount of cases of missing livestock and suspicious livestock deaths this year,” said Leann Hunting, UDAF animal industry director. “While we don’t know the exact cause of the increase in cases, it is very concerning and we want to raise awareness of these happenings.”
Up until July 2022, UDAF has received a growing number of missing livestock reports. There have been 77 head of cattle, five head of horses/mules, and one sheep/goat; of those 83 animals, only seven have been found.
“Department investigators have also received seven reports of suspicious livestock deaths that are currently under investigation,” she said. “The three most recent cattle killed were in Juab County and they were confirmed gunshot casualties.”
The numbers are growing and officials are trying to get a handle on the problem.
“There were 11-head of livestock reported missing in Uinta County, 39-head in Duchesne County, 20-head in Toole County. The rest are twos and threes from other counties,” she said. “Depending on the age and the condition of the livestock the value of the missing or killed animals is upwards of $100,000.”
Some of the earlier cattle killed were partially decomposed and it was difficult to tell if they all died from gunshot wounds.
“It’s hard to say what the reason is for the increase in missing or shot livestock,” she said. “It might be tempting to try and say what the reason might be, but without finding a confirmed theft it is hard to say what the cause might be.”
She said the USDAF started seeing an uptick in 2020 when there were reports of a shortage of meat.
“That wasn’t the case. There was plenty of meat in the stores, but we started to see more missing cattle then,” Hunting said. “We started to see things jump because people were afraid they wouldn’t get meat and it has continued until 2022. That is one of the things I suspect.”
Historical trends indicate that a rise in these occurrences are expected to increase into the fall months. Livestock producers should be vigilant and herds should be monitored closely. Any instances of missing or harmed livestock should be reported to the local brand inspector.
So far, in Cache Valley and Box Elder County there have been no large scale reported cases of missing livestock.
Most of the cattle in northern Utah are out on the range and won’t be counted until this fall.
The United States Department of Agriculture National Statistic Service estimates livestock brought in $318 million into the state’s economy in 2010.
UDAF is asking the public to be vigilant and watch for any suspicious activity. A reward of $20,000 is offered for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in the theft, mutilation, or malicious killing of livestock. Reports can be made to the UDAF livestock investigator at 435-419-0021.