Cattle Rustling in God’s Country

by Abby Wendle


When Jeff Emerson started buying cattle in the early 1990’s he was paying as much as $5,000 dollars a head when other farmers were only spending a few hundred dollars. That’s because Emerson was buying a rare breed of Italian cattle called Piedmontese because, according to Emerson, the meat tastes better. That extra expense has cost him in recent years when some of Emerson’s neighbors allegedly rustled, or stole, $100,000 worth of cattle off his farm, hurting his meat business for years to come.


Cattle Rustling in God’s Country

Jeff Emerson: It finally dawns on you that these cattle are nowhere in the woods, these cattle are nowhere to be found.  We’ve hunted the roads and stuff like that for – and talked to neighbors till we’re blue in the face.  And then when you finally find the gate where they’ve been going in and out of, you feel kind of violated.

Rustling is big time right now.  Cattle prices, commodities are just expensive, corn, oil, everything.  But cattle prices are way up.  And so what used to be an old $300 cow is now a $1,000 cow.  There’s a lots of cattle stolen.  I mean 10,000 head last year in Texas and I think we was on track for 3,500 or something like that in Oklahoma in 2010.

It’s actually pretty easy believe it or not.  With my cattle all I have to do is go, “Ah-hoo!” and here they come running.  Because you don’t want wild cattle, you want your cattle to be around you.  You want them used to you calling them and stuff like that and so when they hear the, “Hoo-hoo-hoo,” when they hear somebody call, here they come.  And then they just – they funnel them down into a pen back at their stock trailer and they just run them into the stock trailer.  You know, in a matter of a few hours they’re in Texas with them.  Or they’re in – anywhere.  And then there is a sale going on every single day of the week almost somewhere within 200 miles of Tulsa.  I mean, there’s even sales on Sundays in some places.  So they can load those things up and a sale at a sale barn, you can just pull up there and you can just say, “I’m Joe Blow,” wait for the cattle to sell and get your check and go.

My name is Jeff Emerson of Natural Farms in Tulsa.  We had some cattle stolen off the farm, rustled off the farm about a year and half, two years ago.  I counted on the day after April Fools’ Day.  And then we counted again; brought them in and count them again on the fourth of July weekend and we were a minimum of 36 down.  And we hunted the farm, and hunted the farm and, you know, went around, drove around neighbors and stuff.  But you can see where there used to be an old gate between us and a neighbor and had a little ole chain and lock through it and it had been sitting there for 10 years and never been opened and all of a sudden you could see where it had been opened.  They cut the chain, cut the lock.  There was traffic back and through, hoof traffic back and through there.  We ear tag them.  But an ear tag you can cut out easily.  Boom, you can have it gone.

A lot of the cows that where stolen would’ve been having calves.  Those calves, some of them where going to be the ones that we’re going to be butchering with our latest equipment bought.  That’s really impacted us now because we’re not necessarily in the cattle business; we’re in the meat business.  We do all our own processing.  Make our own sausages, and everything like that; smoke our own meats.  People would come to us to actually get a steak.  So instead of having a full pen full of cattle or, you know, on feed, now we’re down some.  And so sometimes people come in and say, “Okay, I need an arm roast.”  And I’m like, “I don’t have an arm roast.  I’m out.”  You know, and it probably – it’s going to be a few more months before we’re able to make that up.

We know who actually did this.  It’s just the proofing – trying to prove it is so [indistinct].  The last thing the Department of Ag told us was go get a private investigator.  Well, they stole a $100,000 worth of cattle but it’s going to probably cost me $50,000 and so at some point in time you have to say, “Okay.  I can’t spend anymore.”  It’s so bad.  Here you are, you’re having to pack a gun around with you and you’d hate to just kill a man over an old cow.  But it is your asset and it’s just like him breaking in your house and stealing a necklace out of your drawer.  It just makes you madder than hell.