Cattle rustling up in California as beef prices rise

High prices and inside jobs cited as incidents of cattle theft are up statewide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - State officials say reports of cattle rustling are up across California as the price of beef continues to rise.

Greg Lawley, chief of the state's Bureau of Livestock Identification, said 1,317 head of cattle were stolen or reported missing last year. He told the Sacramento Bee  that it's a 22 percent increase from pre-recession numbers.

The USDA reports that cattle prices hit record highs in 2011 and 2012. One steer can sell for $1,000 or more.

There are roughly 3 million head of cattle in California, most of them dairy cows. But 575,000 head roam the range, often with no more protection than a brand.

Last year the livestock identification bureau identified and returned cattle worth $1.4 million to the owners.

Officials say most thefts are inside jobs.

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