A Cattle Heist of Epic Proportions


by John Nova Lomax, Texas Monthly

1,100 head of cattle worth around $1.4 million have vanished from a Panhandle dairy belonging to the Braum’s restaurant chain. The disappearance of the Holstein / Jersey calves was discovered during the company’s annual inventory at their 24,000-acre farm on the Oklahoma / Texas line east of Follett, about 125 miles northeast of Amarillo.

The logistics of the heist are mind-boggling. Braum’s officials have told the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association that they estimate the missing calves to have weighed between 300 and 750 pounds each at the time of their disappearance. (A time they can’t pinpoint to anything more specific than “sometime last year.” And the cattle were neither branded nor photographed either.) Let’s say each of the calves tipped the scales at 500 pounds, and the thieves had a huge 36-foot cattle trailer at their disposal, one capable of hauling about 37 calves. Under those parameters, that would come to 30.29 trailer-loads of Jersey / Holsteins.

Seriously? At least 30 trailers full of bawling calves just vanished? It’s almost easier to believe a scenario like this:

But seriously, that would strongly suggest, as our own Jeff Winkler pointed out, that the operation was carried out Johnny Cash-style: “One Piece at a Time.” It seems highly doubtful that the thieves could have mobilized an immense convoy of giant cattle trucks and hauled them all off at the same time.

A closer look at some more numbers is illustrative of the just how substantial Braum’s loss is. Last year Oklahoma ranchers claimed $4.5 million in losses due to rustling; at $1.4 million, this Braum’s caper would represent more than a quarter of the whole Sooner State’s total loss in an entire year. In 2012, the sum total of California ranchers reported 1,317 stolen or missing cattle, a mere 200 more than vanished from that one Follett facility. The TSCRA’s 30 rangers represent 16,500 cattle producers who collectively own 4 million cattle, and each year they recover $5 million in stolen cattle and related assets. Should they recover each of the lost Braum’s calves it would boost their yearly total by more than 20 percent.

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Source:  Texas Monthly


Photos: Getty Images

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