DELPHOS — Rustlers drove off recently with a dozen or more beef steers belonging to a pair of Delphos-area farmers, and they’re offering a cash reward to get their cattle back.
Brothers Ray and Larry Bonifas reported to the Allen County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday the theft of between 10 and 14 Holstein steers from their farm on Becker Road in Marion Township, west of Delphos.
Also missing: as much as 200 gallons of diesel fuel from an on-farm fuel tank.
The brothers are offering a $1,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the rustlers, Ray Bonifas said Sunday evening in an interview with The Lima News.
Bonifas said the theft probably occurred Feb. 4, but it’s difficult to count 960 cattle that are penned up and milling about in one barn.
“I noticed a few days ago and said something to my brother that the herd in that front pen looked kind of thin,” Bonifas said. “My brother said, ‘No, it just looks that way.’”
On Saturday, they emptied the pen to perform some repairs, then they counted the steers one-by-one as they returned the animals to the pen. They discovered 14 missing.
Ray Bonifas, 44, lives about a mile away from the barn. Larry Bonfas, 48, lives a half-mile closer. They asked a neighbor who lives across the road from the barn if he’d seen or heard any unusual activity. The neighbor — a cigarette smoker who steps outside to indulge — said he’d heard all kinds of activity between 11 p.m. and midnight Feb. 4 while taking a break with his son.
“He said he almost went over to see what was going on, but didn’t,” Bonifas said.
The black-and-white Holstein steers aren’t yet fully grown. They weigh about 400 to 500 pounds each, Ray Bonifas said. They aren’t branded but they can be identified by sequential numbering on their ear tags. The missing herd has an auction value of between $7,000 and $10,000.
The farm is insured against theft, Bonifas said. But making a claim isn’t all that automatic. A claim could jack up the farm’s insurance premium or could prompt the insurance company to drop the policy as a high risk.
“Somebody very easily could have backed up a trailer or a truck to our barn and dropped a tailgate,” Boniface said. “Once one goes in, it’s a wonder they all don’t. Obviously, we have to tighten some things up security-wise.”
Last week, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office arrested four people on charges of stealing hogs in western Ohio and selling them in Indiana. In a story published in Wednesday’s editions of The Lima News, Mercer County Chief Deputy Gery Thobe said livestock thefts occur more frequently than they are reported.
Anyone with information should call the Allen County Sheriff’s Office at 419-227-3535.