MARTIN, S.D. — Around 200 head of cattle estimated to be worth $350,000 conservatively, have disappeared from prairie rangeland around Martin, S.D.
Rancher Paul Schultes, Schultes Ranch, LLC, said it’s not unusual for some cows and calves to be missing when they are rounded up in the fall.
But recently about 108 cows and 150 calves were missing from a herd that were on about 10,000 acres of pasture near Martin, Schultes said.
The animals were counted before being brought to Bennett County near Martin in the fall of 2022, Schultes said. He believes some of the livestock were missing in the spring but the complete count of missing cattle was found last week.
Both the Bennett County Sheriff’s Office and an inspector with the South Dakota Brand Board are investigating. Matt Clair, an inspector with the Brand Board said 200 cattle is a “high number” of cattle to be missing. He was unable to comment extensively due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.
“You need somebody to see something,” Clair said. “Especially in West River where there are bigger cattle numbers and bigger pastures.”
He added, “Still, there are times a resident won’t report what they saw if it could be a crime because they worry they could be targeted next.”
Schultes believes someone saw something or knows something about his missing cattle.
Brand inspections are required for animals sold west of the Missouri River in South Dakota. The inspection makes it difficult to sell stolen cattle in West River. But that’s not the case East River in South Dakota were brand inspection isn’t required.
If the cattle aren’t recovered, the loss will be costly, Shultes said. He’s already sold cows but that last sale will still leave him short on a loan he needs to repay, he said.
He is offering a $10,000 reward that leads to the return of the livestock within two weeks. He said he won’t press charges if the livestock are returned within the two weeks. The first day of the offered reward was Dec. 4.
The Bennett County Sheriff’s Office has posted the reward announcement and an image of the brand used on Schultes’ cattle. Those with information can call the sheriff’s office at 605-842-1014 or 605-685-6516.
Schultes told KELO that he believes because of the number of missing cattle involved, the animals didn’t wander off to another herd.
“This was well planned,” Schultes said. He believes the theft is part of an organized cattle theft ring.