If a farmer isn't watching his livestock, someone else is keeping track of his animals and it's not a good neighbor doing the watching.
Unfortunately, cattle rustlers still continue to be a problem in Kansas and even in Pratt County, said Sheriff Vernon Chinn.
Thieves are usually familiar with the producer and their routine. They also seem to have a good rapport so that if a neighbor saw them in the area, the neighbor wouldn't question their right to be there.
Some producers will put cattle in pasture or field and never go back to check on them until they move them out.
It doesn't take a person with an extensive background to determine if cattle are being watched on a regular basis.
"Anyone with limited livestock knowledge can pick out the unattended cattle," Chinn said.
Thieves are diligent so producers need to be diligent also.
Recently, a small herd of cattle showed up at a sale barn in Oklahoma that apparently didn't belong to the two people from Pratt (identities not released yet) who took them to the sale.
The men who brought the cattle in could not prove they owned the cattle but so far no cattle have been reported stolen in Kansas or Oklahoma that match the description.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture is leading the investigation that has produced a lot of good leads.
Chinn said he had no doubt the owner of the cattle would be found and the people who stole the cattle would be prosecuted.
This event is just one example of what can happen when a producer doesn't keep a close eye on livestock.
Only one animal was branded and branding is one of the most effective deterrents to theft. If livestock is branded and that brand is registered to the owner, if the cattle are stolen, it makes it very difficult to sell the cattle and get away with it.
Ear tags are another form of identifying cattle but ear tags can easily be removed. Ear notching is helpful but a brand is the best form of cattle identification.
Some might think it's up to the government to protect livestock and property from thieves but it's not.
If livestock and property is not important enough for a producer to be vigilant and keep things secure, then it's not important enough for someone else to protect it.
"Its your property. What's it worth to you to protect it?" Chinn questioned.
What it takes is time to go out and check on the cattle and know how many are supposed to be in a field or pasture. Varying the time and day livestock are checked will help reduce a thief's chances of getting them away from the farmer.
Locking gates is also a simple method to protect cattle. Some farmers have gone high-tech and have even installed cameras.
A simple thing like taking the keys out of equipment and vehicles is a very effective method of keeping thieves away. During his entire career in law enforcement, Chinn said he never worked a vehicle theft case where the thief hotwired a vehicle. The keys were always left in the vehicle.
Putting locks on fuel tanks, toolboxes and pasture gates is also an effective way to deter thieves.
Putting a battery for a battery charger for an electric fence away from the edge of the road is also a simple way to discourage thieves who are usually in a hurry and don't want to take the time to go look for keys or batteries.