The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 26, 1998 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Tuesday, May 26, 1998
Page 10
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TUESDAY. MAY 26, 1998 | V CATTLE RUSTLING AGRICULTURE THE SALINA JOURNAL _ . .. Photos by The Associated Press Ted Hansen rides through a herd of cattle looking for unmarked calves in Spanish Forks Canyon, Utah, where rustling is a problem. CRIME ON THE RANGE Cattle rustlers' modern methods make them tough to catch By E.N. SMITH The Associated Press CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Rustling, a staple of movie Westerns and the cause of countless shootings and hangings, is alive and well in the New West. But the tools of the trade have changed for the good guys and the bad. A fast horse and a sure shot are no match for the modern rustlers' pickup trucks, trailers and tractor- trailers. Nowadays, some rustlers use electric chain saws to butcher the cattle on the spot out in the pasture, or in their trucks. Some rigs are even refrigerated and have meat-processing equipment inside. "One guy's driving, while the other's in the back processing the meat," said Kelly Hamilton, a law enforcement officer with the Wyoming Livestock Board. The U.S. cattle industry lost 19,700 animals worth about $12.1 million to theft in 1995, according to the Agriculture Department. Actual losses are far worse; those figures do not include horses, sheep and other livestock. And because ranchers know there is little chance of recovering stolen animals, many cases of rustling are never even reported. "People don't realize that rustlers have changed with the times, they've mechanized," said James Hoy, an expert on the Old West who teaches English at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan. A hundred years ago, cattle thieves would herd the animals by horseback into remote canyons. "They would leave a sizable trail in the dirt," said R.T. Burton, a pri- Wyoming brand inspector Ron McDonald checks the brands on cattle roaming the high plains near Cheyenne. Wyoming ranchers lose $500,000 a year to rustlers. vate investigator based in Tombstone, Ariz., who has chased rustlers for 20 years. "Today, we chase them in cars and using radios, but they don't leave a trail. The highways just don't leave a trail." Rubber-tire rustlers can strike at night and have the cattle at an auction by the next morning in some other state with lax or nonexistent brand inspection laws. Sheriffs departments and state brand inspectors are often understaffed or underfunded. In Niobrara County, a hotbed of rustling near the Nebraska and South Dakota state lines, cattle thieves began helping themselves soon after Barbara and Monty Fenway started their modest, 250- cow operation. The couple returned from vacation in July 1996 to find their animals scattered on their 13,000-acre spread, apparently by rustlers. One cow's face was "ripped to shreds," probably from resisting. Thirteen cows and 10 calves were stolen. The Fenways have had to protect their stock by keeping them closer to home. "We practically lived with them all summer," Barbara Fenway said. Early one evening, she spotted an unfamiliar truck in the pasture. The rustlers must have spotted her, too. The next thing she saw was the truck kicking up dust as it retreated into the dusk and a fold in the Plains. "The next morning we saw tracks from a pickup and a horse trailer and found out that a neighbor was missing some yearlings," she said. High-tech equipment is helping the good guys. Burton said he frequently brings motion detectors and night vision goggles to stakeouts. At crime scenes, investigators dust gate handles for fingerprints, take plaster molds of shoe prints and tire tracks and, if lucky, find a cigarette butt or two to run through DNA testing. Hamilton has also inserted computer identification chips under the skin of a few Wyoming cattle. Some livestock sale barns or stock shows have scanners that read the chips. But the method is not widely used in the industry, which still relies mostly on cattle branding. In the old days, a rustler could expect a swift hanging or a bullet in the head. Today, rustling is punishable in Wyoming by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. But the thieves rarely spend much time behind bars. "I don't think I've ever seen anyone given over two years," said Jack Chase, who recently retired after 38 years as a brand inspector in North Dakota. "It's hard to convince a judge that stealing a cow is a crime." I I £ HOSPICE OF SAUNA, INC. 9 v Invites the entire community to take $ part in our up coming Annual ^ Memorial Service at Jerry Ivey Park •* May 31, 1998 at 3:00 p.m. 4 t This outdoor event is intended for the J whole family & is a celebration of the lives of those who have died. Music, Refreshments, and Special Floral j> Tributes You do not need to have been served by Hospice to participate. PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU, PEOPLE YOU RELIED ON YESTERDAY, PEOPLE YOU CAN RELY ON... TODAY AND TOMORROW. A. Jay Andersen, Harvey Holmgren, Ed Karber and Steve Muller Jerry Ryan, Steve Ryan, Kenneth Ryan, Marc Ryan and Karl Ryan RYAN MORTUARY AND CREMATORY 137 NORTH EIGHTH STREET / SALINA K.F.D.A. NFDA A family serving families for over three generations MEMBER NATIONAL SELECTED MORTICIANS T SEED TECHNOLOGY Sterile seeds stir controversy •fZ« with patents | Firms want to recoup * * :| costs, but poor nations "The companies wanti$ left with lesser crops control all the seeds"* By CURT ANDERSON The Associated Press WASHINGTON — A new technique that makes seeds sterile is sowing controversy among critics who say it will protect big-business profits while unfairly ending the age-old farm practice of saving a crop's seeds for next year. "We call it terminator technology," said Hope Shand, research director for the Rural Advancement Foundation International in Pittsboro, N.C. "It will force farmers to return to the same company year after year for their seeds." Agriculture Department researchers and the Delta and Pine Land Co. of Scott, Miss., patented the new procedure this year for cotton seed. Companies like Delta and Pine — now being acquired by biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. — want in effect to copyright their plants developed through costly genetic engineering. "The concern was a company might spend a whole lot of time and a whole lot of money in developing new varieties," said Sandy Miller Hays, information director for USDA's Agricultural Research Service. "Everybody runs out and buys the seeds, collects them at the end of the year and says thank you very much." One of the hottest trends in agriculture is use of genetics to develop plant varieties that resist disease or pests or include traits sought after by consumers such as low-fat oils. Big companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Pioneer Hi-Bred International are investing heavily in biotechnology. Harry Collins, who directed the research for Delta and Pine, said the new technique involves inserting an array of new genes in a cotton plant that — when sprayed with a chemical compound — turns off a "blocker" switch that normally allows the plant's seeds to be fertile. These seeds produce cotton normally, generally with moneymaking benefits from genetic engineering. But when the plant produces seeds, they don't germinate because the "blocker" gene doesn't work, sending the farmer back to the dealer for next year's supply- So far, the technique is proven to work on cotton and tobacco JaneRissler ',,,j Union of Concerned Scientists -i->! seeds, but Collins said it should be effective in wheat, soybeans' and numerous other crops. It will probably be 2004 before the cotton seed is ready for commercial use, but the breakthrough is stirring heavy criticism. < '. ••• • Jane Rissler, senior scientists! the Union of Concerned Scientists, said preventing farmers in poor countries from savings seeds could trigger more hunger because they cannot afford to buy the expensive genetically m6fli- fied seeds. ' v > "The companies want to control all the seeds," Rissler said.'"It gives the lie to the notion that the biotechnology industry wants; to feed the world. It's the wrong/way to go if you think biodiversity-.'is important." . ,^; Seed companies already conttol the world's supply of hybrid corn seeds. In previous decades; Hybrids developed in ways that prevent them from producing seeds after harvest that would grow into a viable plant the next year. ' ' J Millions of farmers worldwide depend on saving wheat, soybean, rice and many other seeds td'"pfo- duce food, Shand said. '•'>"''- ' "It is outrageous that the Agriculture Department used taxpayer money to pay for this research," she said. "It is dangerous and immoral." !!->v But USDA's Hays said without some protection, seed companies won't continue development .of the new plant varieties that cjjuld actually improve yields in' the Third World and move some'fann- ers out of subsistence and into profits. "We think in the long rut?'tins will benefit farmers, and they .will have access to many more'.^ari- eties," she said. .' :M :: ., The company and USDA have applied for patents in 78 countries, a process that Shand and other sustainable agriculture groups are hoping to stop. ", -,.'. "These companies did not invent the plant they are marketing. They are adding new qualities.ahd refining seeds in certain ways," Shand said. "No plant breeder^ pr genetic engineer started 'from scratch." 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