Norton Seal Image of three cows behind a fence to prevent theft

On the Farm

How to Prevent Livestock Theft

As a farmer, your animals aren't merely the source of your income — they're an extension of your family. After raising them and caring for them day-in and day-out, you've come to understand each of their personalities and their distinct traits. So, as with the rest of your family, you'll want to be sure you do everything you can to protect them. Luckily, there are many simple solutions that can help steer away would-be cattle rustlers, and keep your animals safe and secure.

Here are some tried and true ways to safeguard your livestock, and foil attempted theft before it happens.

Know your cattle. Daily visits and head counts can help ensure that a livestock theft doesn't go unnoticed. The longer a missing animal goes unreported, the more difficult it will be to track down the rustler. Be sure to vary your visit and feeding times, too, so that anyone casing your land will be unable to predict when you might show up. Knowing that you could pop in at any time might make a would-be poacher deem your property too much of a risk.

Keep fences and gates well maintained. For starters, it's a good idea to build pens away from the roadway, and conceal them, if possible. Even if they aren't highly visible, you'll want to secure your enclosures with strong, quality locks. Exposed hinges can easily be removed with a couple of hand tools, so it's worthwhile to get into the habit of capping them. Also, regularly inspect for damages or weak links that might allow someone to get through.

Be observant. If anything seems amiss, trust your gut. For instance, if you see signs that someone might have been on the property, such as footprints or tire tracks near the perimeter, take extra precautions. The same goes for if you notice any suspicious vehicles making repeat visits or slowing down near your land.

Mark your livestock. Whether you use a brand, tattoo, or tag system, marking your animals can be a powerful deterrent. Most thieves will pause before stealing animals that are clearly marked as someone else's property. The reason: Markings are fairly easy to identify, which not only makes the animals difficult to sell, but puts the rustlers at a much higher risk of being associated with the crime. Branding is considered the best method, and it has been used for thousands of years. In Missouri, for example, the state maintains a list of about 5,000 recorded brands. Check with your state to find out the laws regarding brands, including how to register yours.

Make friends in the community. Connecting with local law enforcement and nearby neighbors will encourage people who see something odd, like vehicles hanging around your property, to call you immediately. Ask around to find out if there's a farm watch program in your community and if so, join it.

Make an investment in technology. From fence alarms to video surveillance to motion sensor lighting, technology can serve as your eyes and ears — whether you're relaxing in your home or away from your ranch. It can also act as an extra deterrent: Simply seeing video cameras around or having lights come on as they approach could be enough to make a livestock thief think twice. Anything you can do to discourage people who might be trying to sneak onto your property is a good thing.

Limit who has access to your property. Even if your livestock isn't easily noticeable from the road and therefore not attracting random thieves, you want to be sure that the people coming onto your property are trustworthy. Whether you're getting feed deliveries or have service people coming in and out, be cautious about who you give alarm codes to, or who has copies of your keys. Often, theft turns out to be an inside job.

Insure your animals. In the unfortunate event that livestock does get stolen, insurance can help reduce the financial burden. Be sure your farm insurance policy includes suitable coverage for your livestock.

Now that you know some precautions you can take to prevent livestock theft, contact your American Family Insurance agent — they’ll walk you through all the farm and ranch coverage you need to protect your home on the range.

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Related Topics: Farm Safety , Farm Insurance