Ranchers see increase in grass thefts amid drought

By Russell Contreras

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 3 2012 1:10 a.m. MDT

In this Sept. 26, 2012 photos, cattle graze on a ranch outside of Encino, N.M. With extreme drought drying out grazing land and driving up hay prices, authorities in drought-stricken states say some ranchers have started stealing hay, cutting neighbors’ fences or leaving gates open so their cattle can graze on greener pastures.

Russell Contreras, Associated Press

VAUGHN, N.M. — Some ranchers have started cutting neighbors' fences or leaving gates open so their cattle can graze on greener pastures amid an extreme drought that has caused a spike in hay prices.

Ranchers from Missouri to Texas and west into New Mexico have sold off huge portions of their herds this year because the worst drought in decades dried up their pastures and they couldn't afford to buy food for their animals.

Now authorities in New Mexico and other drought-stricken states say they're seeing all sorts of attempts to steal grass and hay as ranchers struggle to feed the animals they have left. In one case in Colorado, $5,000 worth of hay was stolen from a field.

While grass thefts might seem relatively harmless, ranchers say they threaten their livelihoods.

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