Authorities puzzled by how thieves took two dozen cows

Cattle rustlers stole two dozen beef cows from a Lewis County farm, but authorities aren't sure how.

"I'm no expert, but I'd assume that even with a big livestock trailer, you'd fit about 10 to 15 in there," said Cmdr. Steve Aust of the Lewis County Sheriff's Office. "You'd still have to make two trips."

The cows are worth more than $16,000, officials estimated.

"Rounding them up can't be easy, especially if you did it at night," Aust said. "If it was during the day, you'd risk getting caught."

The cattle were stolen from an Onalaska dairy farm that's been out of business for the last few years. Cheney Livestock of Centralia, which owns the beef cows, leases the property for grazing purposes, manager Tony Perdue said.

The yearling heifers were stolen between May 24 and May 28, Perdue told KING-5 TV on Thursday. Cheney Livestock owner Kyle Cheney was out of town Friday.

A more specific date couldn't be pinned down because no one lives on the property, Aust said.

"They've probably got several troughs of water, and the grass is grown to a point now where they don't have to worry too much about feed," Aust said.

Added Purdue: "They were turned out on an open pasture and they're not checked on a daily basis."

The cattle are branded with the family's lazy VK symbol and also have plastic tags attached to their ears, Perdue said.

Authorities hope to use those identification markers to alert area sale barns and other agricultural facilities where the thieves might try to resell the cattle, Aust said.

"We've put enough information out there that if someone approached a reputable sales barn, we'd hear something about it," he said.

If not, Cheney Livestock stands to lose a large portion of its revenue this year. Though he's unable to provide monetary figures, Perdue said the effects will be significant for the family business.