MELROSE, Minn. (WCCO) –Sheriffs in three Minnesota counties are warning farmers to keep a close eye on their dairy calves. In just the past week, six farmers have reported Holstein calves stolen from their dairy farms, taken in the middle of the night.
It’s kind of like a modern day scene from an old western, where thieves are rustling up cattle and carting them off. The latest incident happened on a windswept and snowy farm in rural Freeport, in Stearns County. Suddenly, Jim Scherer’s future Holstein herd just got a little smaller.
“It was 7 in the morning when I noticed they were missing,” recalled Scherer.
Scherer’s calf shelters are now quiet and empty. Scherer lost three of the nine Holstein calves taken in Stearns County since Thanksgiving night.
“We don’t see any tracks, they come close and then carry ‘em out of the yard. So it’s going to be hard to see where they’re coming from I guess,” said Scherer.
Dave Gamradt’s Melrose farm was also hit just a couple of nights earlier. He also noticed that three of his calf shelters were empty, and the young stock was missing.
In fact, since Nov. 20, a total of six farms in Todd, Douglas and now Stearns County have been targeted by the cattle thieves. Stearns County Chief Deputy Bruce Bechtold is urging farmers to be extra vigilant.
Bechtold also had a warning for the thieves.
“If you’re entering a farm after dark, you don’t know what you’ll encounter,” he said. “They have dogs and farmers typically have guns. I wouldn’t want to be wandering around a farm site in the middle of the night.”
Unfortunately, the Scherer’s dog was inside on the night his calves were stolen, which was a potential last line of defense to a dastardly deed.
“They’re the future offspring for the herd, so I got more in genetics probably than what I could sell them for at a sale probably,” said Scherer.
Investigators say that’s the confusing part of string of crimes. Dairy calf prices are currently down, due largely to low milk and high grain prices. Scherer figures at best, he’d only get about $150 per calf.
Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to contact the Tri-County Crimestoppers at 1-320-255-1301. Information leading to arrests of those responsible may result in a reward of up to $5000.
WCCO-TV’s Frank Vascellaro Reports