SACRAMENTO – Cutting edge science continues to assist the California Department of Food and Agriculture in its efforts to prevent one of the oldest agricultural crimes: cattle rustling. A Sierra County man who grazes cattle in San Benito County pleaded guilty to charges of cattle theft following the production of DNA evidence that proved that cattle in the man’s herd were stolen.
The defendant, Michael Leon Herod of Loyalton, was accused of stealing three beef steers valued at approximately $1,500. Tipped off by former employees of Herod’s, a CDFA brand inspector discovered that Herod branded the cattle as his own. Further investigation, including DNA sampling using hair from the steers’ tails, led to Herod’s arrest on a warrant issued by the San Benito County Sheriff’s Department.
Herod was ordered to pay restitution along with a unique set of probation conditions. The defendant cannot move any cattle without prior authorization from CDFA and must pay for all associated costs.
“Cattle rustling can be a difficult crime to solve because of the isolated locations of many ranches and the ability of rustlers to integrate stolen cattle in their herds,” said CDFA Secretary William (Bill) J. Lyons, Jr. “DNA evidence is an important crime-fighting tool that helps our Bureau of Livestock ID and local law enforcement overcome those challenges.”
This is the second cattle theft case involving DNA evidence to be resolved in California. Two more cases remain in the legal system.
Cattle ranchers lose about 1,900 head of cattle each year to rustlers, causing an estimated loss of $1.5 million.
Cattle rustling is a felony offense in California.