Owners of a Zhoda-area cattle operation are warning other cattle producers to be on the lookout, after discovering as many as 150 head disappeared from their ranch.
Juergen Schubert, owner of New Country Ranch in Zhoda, Man., was widely quoted in media reports last week saying thieves stole the cows from their herd of 800 in 2016.
A story in Steinbach’s The Carillon said the couple discovered cattle missing in March and September of 2016, with subsequent counts during vaccination and pregnancy checks in May and January of this year confirming that herd numbers were down by 110 and then again by 40.
Shirley Barca, Schubert’s partner, told CBC they initially thought the animals might be found elsewhere on their 4,000-acre ranch and initially hesitated to assume they were stolen.
“You go through all of those things in your mind, but then ultimately you come to the conclusion that they didn’t leave on their own,” she said.
The couple said the loss has been a major financial blow to their cattle business.
RCMP continue to investigate the incident.
Ben Fox, president of Manitoba Beef Producers said the situation is unprecedented. Theft of cattle is very rare, at least insofar as MBP has been made aware of incidents, he said. Certainly they’ve never heard of anything happening at this scale and where so many animals would end up is a big question.
“I don’t know,” Fox said. “It could be a plethora of things… but it’s totally speculating.”
It would be difficult for someone who didn’t own these animals to try to sell them at auction marts around the province, however.
“The owners and staff, they kind of know who is in their area who has cattle,” he said. “They would be able to recognize if someone was dropping cattle off they’ve never seen before or don’t know the story of.”
Fox said Manitoba does have brand inspectors working in the sale barns with cattle shipped out of province, but the program also isn’t mandatory, meaning if cattle are sold producer to producer, brand inspection isn’t required.
“If it’s just a private sale between two ranchers they don’t have to have a brand inspection done,” he said.
Making brand inspection mandatory has been talked about at Manitoba Beef Producer meetings but not supported when put to resolution, Fox added.
Fox said the circumstances the Zhoda couple report are a cautionary tale for all cattle producers to keep a close eye on their herds, and make sure anyone working for them is also doing regular counts and reporting anything that’s amiss.
Right now cattle producers are also dealing with significant losses related to predation, he said.
“Obviously, the theft of cattle is horrible,” he said. “But we’re also noticing a huge increase in cattle losses due to wolf or coyote kills.”