Farmer, police search for answers on theft of 33 cattle

Staff Reporter

GREENCASTLE, Pa. (Sept. 23, 2014) — Barron Keefer said he knew something wasn’t right when he arrived at one of his farms off Quarry Road in the morning late last month and noticed the front gate wasn’t secured the way he left it. A second gate on the inside was left untied entirely.
When he pulled into the farm, 18 heifers were missing, he said. A track of droppings led several yards to a spot in the road and suddenly disappeared.
“It was pretty obvious,” the dairy farmer said.
His cows had been stolen, and that was just the first heist.
Between Tuesday, Aug. 20 and Friday, Aug. 23, 33 cattle were stolen from two of Keefer’s farms in this rural community about 13 miles north of Hagerstown, Md.
Eighteen from the Quarry Road farm, and 14 others and a bull from another he runs off Stonebridge Road. Tools were also taken.
Half his herd, worth about $50,000, he said, is gone.
Police and Keefer admit it’s an odd crime likely involving multiple people.
But it isn’t just anyone who can steal cows.
“The average Joe doesn’t get drunk and go out and say, ‘I’m gonna steal some cows and make me some money,” said Joel Rotz, senior director of state government affairs at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. “To my knowledge, it’s certainly not all that frequent, but it does occur, and it’s usually driven by the value. There’s good meat value in animals right now.”
Cattle prices are at record highs. Though theft seems more frequent in cattle-heavy regions like the Southwest.
A recent Star-Telegram report in Fort Worth said more than 10,000 theft cases involving more than 33,000 cattle with a combined value of more than $44 million have been investigated across Texas and Oklahoma over the last decade.
The crimes range from simple theft such as what occurred in Greencastle to more accounting-related forms of cattle fraud.
Keefer said he’s contacted nearby sale houses and those who move cattle. It returned nothing.
He said police told him they’ve spoken with three suspects, but nothing new has emerged since the theft.
“Nobody’s heard anything or seen anything,” he said. “I’d just love to know something, but I don’t know nothing.”
Local rumors about his own involvement in the crime have only aggravated the situation, Keefer said, but he denies any role. Micah Meyers, president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau, said he knows Keefer well and defended him.
“I’m actually surprised with the way prices are, it’s not happening more,” Meyers said. “I do think it’s interesting [the thefts] all came from one [owner], but I don’t know what all the circumstances are or why it happened.”
Keefer said he’s still wrestling with what happened.
“It kind of gives you a bad feeling when you get stuff taken,” he said. “We live in a pretty good community. Or I thought so.”
Anyone with information regarding the cattle theft should call the state police in Chambersburg at 717-264-5161.