DIAMOND, MO.--- Cattle theft is becoming a hot button issue in the Southwest Missouri agricultural community.
"I've heard quite a bit about it and I know several people that have had cattle stolen," states Harold Haskins, Farmer & Veterinarian.
Local farmer and veterinarian Harold Haskins spends hours each day looking after his more than 400 cattle, but keeping watch over that many on hundreds of acres of land is very time consuming.
"It's a real problem, because you can't be with your cattle 24/7," states Haskins.
Local authorities have become increasingly aware of this concern.
"We've seen an increase in all of Southwest Missouri," states Sgt. Mike Watson, Missouri Highway Patrol.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol's Rural Crimes Unit, along with area police and sheriff's departments say although this type of crime happens year round, seeing an increase in the winter is not uncommon.
"One of the things that our investigators have noticed, in either talking with people or working on these cases, that at this time of year you have taxes coming up and you've got Christmas," states Watson.
This unfortunate trend is something local farmers like Haskins take measures to avoid becoming victims.
"Make sure that we keep an eye on them. We check them often, and we also brand the cattle. We have a brand so that we can prove they are ours. The ear tags can be removed instantly and very easily, but a brand is permanent," states Haskins.
Authorities say it's not just cattle being stolen, in some instances, thieves also take farming equipment like trucks and trailers. People who witness or experience these types of crimes are encouraged to report them to their local police or sheriff's offices, or contact the Missouri Highway Patrol's Rural Crimes Investigative Unit.