Modern-day cattle rustlers have made off with dozens of animals from a pasture near Gladstone.
In a Facebook post last week, Chris Moore said 25 cows and 24 calves were stolen sometime between noon and 10 p.m. on Oct. 26.
Moore said the cows are all Black Angus, between three to six years old, weigh about 320 kilograms, and have yellow or white tags in their ears; the calves have yellow or blue tags.
"Any information is appreciated," Moore said in the post. He was unavailable for comment.
In the meantime, the social media post has almost 8,000 shares, with many users offering advice to the farmer and everyone saying they will be on the lookout for the animals.
Tyler Fulton, president of the Manitoba Beef Producers, says that’s good, because if they’re not found, the farmer is likely out a lot of money and a sizable piece of his herd.
"The dollar figure probably exceeds $50,000 and maybe $75,000," Fulton said this week.
"And, in Manitoba, on average for many producers, that could represent one-quarter to one-half of their herd... This is probably a case of opportunity. Somebody saw the owner had left and took the opportunity to scoot in."
Fulton said cattle rustling is rare in Manitoba; the last such incident he heard of was three or four years ago in the area of Riding Mountain National Park. He doesn’t know if that producer ever got his cattle back.
"It’s not common that the animals are insured under farm policy. It’s not the kind of thing you expect to happen," Fulton said, adding if the cattle have not been branded it will be tough to find them.
"If they don’t have any permanent identifying features like tattoos or brands they would be hard to identify," he said.
"It’s probably more common to see thefts of bales because a theft like this is more involved. There’s no doing it quickly. It takes organization. It takes skill. It takes trucks. And cattle are ubiquitous across the western Prairies," Fulton said.
"It’s probably along the lines of they’re hiding in plain sight. This sounds like a terrible loss and really unfortunate."
Carlyle Bennett, manager of production stewardship with Manitoba Agriculture, said while cattle in Alberta and Saskatchewan are subject to mandatory brand inspections, that’s not the case in this province.
"We don’t have mandatory inspections and we don’t have the mandatory fees charged there," said Bennett.
"To this point, we haven’t had the industry consensus. There is a debate about this — and there is a cost. The question is it worth the cost, and so far there is no consensus."
Bennett said the other provinces charge $2.75 per head for the inspections when they go to market and while that might not seem a lot for a single animal, it adds up when there were 425,000 head of cattle sold in 2019.
The province does have a brand registry where producers can register their individual brands, Bennett said, and many producers do brand their herd so they can tightly keep track of them.
"With a community pasture, you want to be sure you get the right cattle back and a brand is a way of doing it."
RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said the Minnedosa detachment received a report about a theft from a Westlake-Gladstone pasture Oct. 26.
"The owner had corralled his cattle and was making trips transporting them when he noticed approximately 50 cattle were missing," said Courchaine. "I would say that theft of cattle is fairly rare. We do not see those types of files very often."
Anyone with information can contact Minnedosa RCMP at 204-867-2916 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.