Over two dozen head of cattle were stolen from a farm near Marionville on January 18th.
Sheriff Brad DeLay says two white steers and twenty five black steers were taken by the thieves from Kyle Burk's farm.
DeLay says the farmer went out to feed his herd and noticed that some of them were missing and went looking for them. When he couldn't account form them he called authorities. "He for sure lost at least twenty seven, but there could be more. He is going to do a complete head count for investigators."
Authorities say farm equipment like trailers and trucks were targeted recently in surrounding counties. In some recent cases, thieves have marked fence posts with plastic bags or tape and have spray painted pavement in front of farms to identify them for future burglaries.
Law enforcers say cattle theft is a year round problem and seeing a spike during the winter is not uncommon, but the current price of cattle is what is driving some thieves. "Cattle are going from anywhere from $750 to $1,500 a head," said DeLay. "Overnight this farmer lost nearly $30,000."
Last week Lawrence County prosecutor Don Trotter took part in a meeting to discuss cattle rustling in Mt Vernon. He said the first time someone is charged with a livestock stealing offense they could be sentenced to up to seven years in state prison. A second offense would bring federal charges.
Stockyards face stiff penalties if they are caught knowingly selling stolen cattle.
DeLay says farmers and residents should be on the lookout for strange or unusual activity around farms and barns.
If you have any information that can help the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office locate the cattle or the thieves you're asked to call 417-466-2131, the Crimestoppers Hotline at 1-888-635-TIPS (8477) or 9-1-1.