FANNIN COUNTY, TX - Cattle inventory is at an all time low, pushing cattle prices to an all time high, and cattle rustlers are cashing in. The Fannin County District Attorney's Office is now preparing to prosecute 6 involved in a cattle rustling ring that hit Fannin, Delta, and Hopkins counties.
In a County where agriculture is the main industry, a cow is part of a rancher's livelihood.
"You're stealing part of their heart and soul," said Tim Mayo.
Mayo is the co-owner of Great Western Stockyards in Bonham, and says he's lost livestock before to cattle rustlers--a growing problem in Fannin County.
"Cattle prices are at an all time high. We've had an onslaught of cattle rustling," said Mayo.
The Texas Southwestern Cattle Raiser's Association is a team of special rangers who've investigated agriculture thefts since 1877.
With help from the Fannin County Sheriff's Office, they arrested 6 people allegedly involved in a cattle rustling ring.
"There were approximately 30 cattle that were taken," said Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser. He also tells us the thefts occurred in three counties including Fannin, over the course of 2 months.
"We estimate about $30,000 to $50,000 dollars in loss," said Glaser.
Mayo says at every sale, a brand inspector checks each cow before they enter the auction arena, to prevent the sale of stolen cattle.
"But these cattle were being sold, not to go to market but to be bred," said Glaser.
Those offspring could later be sold without being recognized.
Glaser says times have changed since the "Old West," and rustlers have updated their methods.
If it weren't for a watchful neighbor who was able to get a license plate number, the suspects wouldn't have been discovered.
"People, especially in a small community like Fannin County, will step forward and help one another," said Glaser.
Mayo advises ranchers to change up their routine, "Go check your cattle at different times of the day, and different days of the week."
Glaser tells News 12 all the cattle in this case have been returned to their homes!
The suspects were indicted by a grand jury last week on charges of cattle theft and engaging in organized crime. Glaser expects to wrap up the case within a year, either by plea agreement or trial.