Ranchers who have had to try to get their cattle through a rough drought have a new battle: cattle rustlers.
Seventeen head were stolen last week near Mansfield, the latest in a recent rash of cattle thefts from ranches in Johnson and Ellis counties.
"These guys are out on horseback stealing cattle just like they did 120 years ago," said H.D. Brittain, a special ranger with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in Fort Worth.
Eight mostly black cows branded with a turkey track on their left hip and nine unbranded calves were stolen from Feb. 15-17.
More than 30 head of cattle have been stolen from the same area since the end of last year, but that's only a fraction of those stolen each year across Texas.
In 2010, 7,500 head across the state were stolen -- triple the number just three years before.
A stolen cow can fetch nearly $1,000, while a bull can bring in $1,500.
"The way this economy is, we're going to see it continue to rise," said Brittain. "You get full market value for a cow, whether she's stolen or whatever."
There is a $2,500 reward for one of the thefts, and TSCRA's Operation Cow Thief will add a $1,000 reward for information leading to arrest of the cattle rustlers.
Anyone with information on the cattle rustlers is asked to call 817-599-5088 or 1-888-830-2333.
Convicted cattle rustlers can spend years in prison.