If you like it and want to keep it, then you better put a brand on it.
That’s the advice from RCMP livestock investigator Cpl. Dave Heaslip following the theft of 59 mixed breed heifers from the Provost area earlier this month.
“As a police officer investigating, you need to think that this is a commodity that’s worth something,” said Heaslip. “One of the criteria for proving without reasonable doubt in a court of law, is that you need to be able to identify your property. Before you put them out, make sure you can identify your property.”
Branding and Canadian Cattle Identification Agency tags are both good insurance, and also help police officers do their job. Under the Health of Animals Acts, producers cannot legally move animals from a farm site to a pasture location without tags.
Heaslip has investigated some cases where upwards of 20 head of cattle without branding or tags have gone missing. That slows the investigation and lowers the chance the thieves will be caught.
“It’s very cumbersome. By the time you get all this information gathered and the co-operation from the people, the cattle are down the road,” said Heaslip.
“With this case that we’ve got going right now, this guy is a good farmer, a good rancher and a good cattle guy. He had all his brands on there and they had tags in their ears and stuff.”
The theft of the 59 cattle was detected after a monthly head count. When the landowner noticed his cattle were missing, he searched the area on the ground and in an aircraft. RCMP also conducted a thorough search of the property for evidence, alerted the media, and contacted inspection markets and auctions across Western Canada and the U.S.
It’s suspected the thieves knew the daily routine on the farm and used a trailer capable of holding 60 heifers to steal them in one go.
“Since cattle prices are so high, it makes cattle more valuable with regards to taking a chance and thefts,” said Heaslip.
The 59 stolen cattle are valued at around $80,000, and their owner is offering a reward of $25,000 for their return.
Heaslip encourages producers to keep an eye on their cattle numbers and check their cattle daily when they’re out on pasture. Another way to avoid theft is to maintain good relationships with neighbours and groups like Rural Crime Watch.
“Stay in contact with your neighbours,” he said. “Babysit each other’s stuff and have a look. Let your neighbours know when you’re putting your cattle in.”
It also helps to take pictures of any cattle with unusual-looking marks or birthmarks.
Heaslip said cattle are reported missing from pastures every once in a while, but it certainly isn’t an epidemic.
Anyone who has information about the 59 missing cattle, is asked to call their local RCMP detachment, police force, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). Crime Stoppers offers rewards of up to $2,000 if information leads to an arrest and calls can be made anonymously. (The organization does not subscribe to call display, call trace, or tape any phone calls.) All the cattle are tagged and bear the HOBBS brand.