An unusually high number of cattle thefts in southwest Missouri prompted a meeting last week to determine solutions to the issue.

Law enforcement officials and Eldon Cole, livestock specialist from the Missouri University Extension, met with farmers and ranchers at the Southwest Missouri Research Center in Mt. Vernon, Mo. last Thursday. Cattle producers met previously in January to share stories and discuss prevention, but thefts continued.

The Cassville Democrat reports Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay asked cattle producers to remain observant. "County agencies don't have unlimited resources," he said. According to DeLay, nine area sheriff’s offices have formed a task force, sharing information about the cattle thefts and identifying leads.

The thefts are so frequent; sheriff’s offices have gathered a higher number of tips, but thieves are difficult to track because they’re hauling cattle with stolen trucks and trailers.

"Where typically, we would have gotten one or two tips in the past, we've had three dozen tips since January," DeLay told the Cassville Democrat. "These people are well-versed in what they are doing," he continued. "We're stopping every trailer that goes through here after dark to make sure someone is not making off with your cattle."

Springfield Livestock is also on watch, photographing anyone who sells cattle at the center.

A program offered by nearby Macs Vet Supply allows farmers to rent wildlife cameras used to capture vehicle images and license plate number. Click here for other ways to prevent thefts or catch trespassers.

Cattle pastures near the highway are more likely to be targeted and a full moon provides the most natural light for thieves to strike so farmers should be aware if these conditions apply to their operation.

Cole reminds producers one of the best deterrents to theft is branding your livestock.