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Sharp-eyed sales manager spots stolen cattle

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The watchful eye of a Johnson County livestock buyer helped a man get three stolen heifers returned to his farm, as the problem of cattle rustling increases nationally.

Two men traveled to the Johnson County Sales Pavilion south of Franklin on Sunday, looking to sell three heifers. Sales pavilion manager Rick Teverbaugh noticed a specific brand on each of them and quickly became suspicious the animals might have been stolen, according to a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office report.

A Hendricks County farmer recently had seven cattle stolen from his farm. The Indiana Beef Cattle Association sent out about 1,600 emails to state livestock producers and farmers, alerting them of the theft, executive vice president Joe Moore said.

Teverbaugh saw the brand on the animals and remembered the email. He called police and the farmer, who traveled to Johnson County to retrieve his animals.

Beef prices have more than doubled in the past five years, which has led to an increase in cattle rustling. The price of cattle hovered in the range of 80 to 85 cents per pound about four years ago but now sells for $2 a pound, Moore said.

Thieves are using trailers to steal the animals, often luring them inside with a feed pan, Moore said.

No specific statistics are kept on the number of cattle stolen statewide, but one farmer in Marshall County lost 80 animals in an overnight theft last year, Moore said.

Branding animals is not common among cattle farmers, but most animals have ear tags. The ear tags can be removed, but most buyers of cattle become suspicious if an animal has a hole in its ear but no tag.

Teverbaugh became suspicious when two men traveled to the sales pavilion Sunday. The man that had possession of the cattle told police he purchased the animals from a man for $800 each while at the Rockville Livestock Auction on Feb. 15. The man had a handwritten receipt for the cattle, the report said.

The Hendricks County farmer who owned the animals said he would have to be paid more than $3,000 per animal before he would have considered selling them, Moore said.

The second man that visited the sales pavilion used his truck and trailer to help the other man transport the cattle to Johnson County. But that man left the sales pavilion Sunday when he heard Teverbaugh question if the cattle were stolen. The man said he wasn’t going to jail for stolen cows as he walked out, leaving his friend behind, the report said.

No one has been arrested.

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