Record prices in the industry have authorities across the country seeing more cases of cattle theft, making producers extra cautious.

Limited cattle supplies have pushed beef prices to record levels, and demand continues to support those rising values. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Brookhaven cattle farmer and Mississippi commissioner of agriculture and commerce, told the Mississippi Business Journal rustlers are stealing cattle because the payoff is so high for just a few animals.

Cases of livestock theft are often only a handful of cattle at a time, but even six animals can translate to tens of thousands of dollars and a significant loss for producers.

Stolen cattle are more likely to be sold to individual buyers away from sale barns where inspectors follow procedures to ensure the seller owns the animals. John Michael Riley, an economist with the Agriculture Extension Service, says thieves are likely to sell animals outside of the region they were taken from, but not across state lines to avoid federal Department of Transportation officers requiring a veterinarian’s certificate of health for the animals.