A South Auckland Hereford stud has lost years of genetic development after more than 50 of its cattle were stolen in late September.
The theft of 22 breeding cows and 29 calves has devastated Kirstine Lereculey and Phillip Jackson, who run 450 cows, heifers and bulls at Bluff Herefords near Glenbrook.
Lereculey said the loss of genetics to the herd was far greater than the animals’ monetary value.
“The genetics we have lost has been catastrophic. We only purchased this herd in February and years and years of intentional breeding with bulls brought in from all around the country [went into getting] these amazing genetics, and it’s just gone,” Lereculey said.
“We have years of breeding to make up.”
Jackson discovered the theft on September 28 when he went to inspect and shift the cattle.
The cattle were in remote holding paddocks on the farm in two mobs adjacent to a road as Lereculey planned to shift the animals across the road to a new paddock that day.
When Jackson arrived that morning, he noticed that someone been in the paddock and had damaged its newly built fence and gate.
He initially thought it was just vandalism – the paddock was wet from rain and the paddock damage suggested that a member of the public went joy riding and got stuck in the mud.
Jackson and Lereculey were also annoyed because their cows and bulls had been mixed up in the mobs, possibly leading to inbreeding in the herd.
The theft was discovered when they yarded the cattle to separate them back into their proper mobs.
The calves were still feeding off their mothers, and with the thieves mixing the animals up during the theft, they took the cows but left the calves behind.
“We’ve had calves die because their mums are gone,” Lereculey said.
The stolen calves were a mix of both sexes and would have been grown and been sold as bulls or kept for the breeding herd if female.
The farmers reported the theft to the police, who were sympathetic but have been unable to track down the stolen animals.
“Because it was outdoors, it was pouring with rain and there wasn’t anywhere to get forensic evidence from and nobody’s life was in danger, so it’s not a priority for them and I can understand that. For us, it’s devastating.”
Lereculey said she understood that at least four other farms in the upper North Island had cattle stolen over that month.
They have increased their on-farm security and alerted stock agents. They hope the animals will be found during any attempted sale.