No-good varmints are rustling Canadian cattle

Did you know that, until 1832, stealing cattle was punishable by death in Upper Canada? These days, ranchers have to hope that jail time for ‘theft under $5,000’ is enough of a deterrent. 

What happened: Police in Québec are investigating a suspected case of cattle theft, or rustling, in which a rancher claims thieves nabbed his herd of almost 75 cows valued at ~$200,000. 

Why it matters: Cattle rustling is a pervasive problem for Canada’s $24 billion beef industry. While it might seem like an old-timey crime out of a John Wayne western, the problem has gotten worse as criminal groups acquire sophisticated tech like drones and GPS trackers.

  • Rustling is mostly seen out west — particularly in Alberta, where ~50 cases are reported yearly. 

Why it’s happening: Thieves are after cattle because cows are walking bricks of bovine gold. As of March, cattle prices were near all-time highs, with the average price of Albertan cattle coming in at $223.54 per hundred pounds — a 15.1% increase from March 2023.

Big picture: Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan have inspection services that try and prevent the illicit sale of cattle, but contraband cows are often moved to provinces without inspectors. In Manitoba, Big Beef is pushing the province to expand safeguards to combat this.—QH