How to better protect your cattle from theives
April 12, 2017
Chasing cattle thieves is, not just Kendal Lothman's main job, it's his only job. Investigating an average of 30 cases a year, Lothman, a special agent with the Kansas Attorney General's Livestock & Brand Investigations Unit, who stands 6-feet 4-inches tall with his considerably sized cowboy hat, knows how to size 'em up. He's intent on increasing ranchers' awareness and explaining the profile of potential cattle thieves, so that ranchers don't become victims.
Lothman's timely message to cattlemen and women at a recent Kansas Livestock Association county meeting in Washington, Kan., in late February coincides with ranchers preparing to put cattle out on grass.
"Nobody steals a pig; it's just too hard … occasionally a horse, but mainly cattle. Cattle theft is a property crime, and most of the time it comes back to money and drugs. Cattle thieves either have a habit, or they have items they can't pay for, so they look for the path of least resistance. Cattle thieves may be lazy but they drive around and look at pens, pastures and panels, and they do their homework," Lothman said.
"Register your brand. You need traceability," Lothman told the ranchers, noting that although there are 46 cattle markets in Kansas, only six conduct brand inspections. "And those six are mainly in northwest or western Kansas near Colorado and Nebraska. Also, half of Nebraska (the western side) is a 'brand state' but the eastern half is not. Cars have VIN numbers but selling stolen livestock is out on the open market," said Lothman, who travels across the entire state of Kansas, and often into Missouri to track down stolen cattle and to follow up on leads.
As a former sheriff of Kiowa County, Kansas, Lothman packs a heavy law enforcement resume combined with extensive livestock experience; to produce his savvy special agent acumen.
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In fact, Lothman and his team were able to help solve a case that emerged across two state lines.
"Some cattle stolen in Kansas ended up at a market in Oklahoma. Upon reviewing information and photos provided by Oklahoma authorities, we were able to identify the cattle from their brands back to a Kansas rancher who was unaware they were missing. The suspects were arrested within a short period of time by the local sheriff's Office. In all of my cases, I assist the local law enforcement agencies with their investigation and it is a joint effort," Lothman said.
Urging cattlemen and women to increase their awareness around their cattle, Lothman said the profile of cattle thieves. "These outlaws are not cowboys. The majority may have a little bit of livestock experience; they may have worked in a feedlot. They're looking for a pen (that they could easily load cattle out of). Typically, thieves take 10 head, but sometimes just five or six cows in a trailer. Often the thieves will show up in the wee hours of the morning. They have also shown up to steal cattle at 10 on a Sunday morning when many people are in church, and they were caught with 12 head of six to seven weight cattle in a trailer," Lothman said.
Cattle theft occurs consistently; it doesn't follow market trends.
Lothman alerted the ranchers to signs. "Pay attention to your cattle. Are they acting different? Somebody could be 'baiting' them; feeding them cake." Therefore, the cattle thieves could be in the process of preparing to slip in, and steal that livestock.
"So, what can you do, to not become a victim?" Lothman said.
Here are the steps Lothman suggested:
*Check your livestock, often.
*Keep good records of your livestock.
*Branding is still the best way to identify your livestock. If any cattle are stolen, branding increases your chances of identifying the stolen livestock.
*Keep a record of any Bangs Tags, or calf hood vaccination tags on your cattle have. It's considered an official U.S. Department of Agriculture metal tag and tattoo that's applied to the right ear at the time of vaccination, by a licensed and accredited veterinarian.
*Use Freeze Brand (which changes the color of the hair permanently to white and can easily be seen.)
*Lock your gates with a key.
"If the gate is open and the lock is cut, your next call better be … to the sheriff's office," Lothman said.
In a million-dollar industry often decided by a handshake, the cattle industry is based on trust. However, Lothman said, ranchers "do your homework. Check out your contracted partner and get references," as he provided an example of partners who trusted, but one rancher later learned he had trusted too easily and never learned much about his previous partner, who ultimately deceived him.
Lothman was intent on leaving his mark to increase ranchers' awareness. He said cattle thieves (unintentionally) leave evidence such as tire tracks and footprints. "If you believe you've been a victim, contact your local law enforcement first, or the sheriff's office immediately."