By Ron Jones

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A crime reminiscent of the Wild West is hitting consumers in their wallets as cattle rustling is on the rise.

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Justin Oldfield—a central valley rancher who also represents the California Cattlemen’s Association—says rustlers are drawn to the $1,500 a head of cattle could catch.

He says ranchers are losing tens of thousands of dollars a year to cattle crimes similar to copper thefts.

“What’s problematic is they get about 100 percent of the profit when they sell the animal,” Oldfield said.

Cattlemen try to protect their beef with branding, but rustlers instead target newborn calves before they’re marked and take them to auction.

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In 2012, 10,400 cattle were reported stolen or missing by Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers—a 36 percent increase from 2010.

The combination of rustling and the recent loss of cattle to harsh weather conditions in the Midwest could affect consumers’ bottom line, said Taylor’s Market co-owner Danny Johnson.

“We buy a little bit of that, and it’ll be affecting beef prices across the board,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 924 on Oct. 7, which specifies penalties for livestock theft. That law will go into effect on Jan. 1.

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