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'Cattle rustlers victimize 4-H'er; four prize animals gone

It's ... as low as you can get'

Associated Press

SUPERIOR, Iowa -- A northern Iowa teenager appears to be the victim of cattle rustlers.

Four Maine Anjou heifers and a steer were missing from their stall on Jan. 3, and a guard dog who sleeps with the show cattle was found badly beaten, Dickinson County authorities said.

The owner, Justin Garrelts, 15, and his father last saw the cattle at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 2, after they finished chores at the family feedlot near Superior.

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The younger Garrelts, a freshman at Estherville Lincoln Central High School, bought the cattle last summer for $20,000 and planned to exhibit the cattle at the Iowa State Fair. The cattle had been registered with 4-H officials, who took DNA samples and nose prints.

Garrelts said he had been working with the cattle every day for four months.

"I had a lot of hope about going to those shows," Justin Garrelts said. "It's pretty sad."

Mark Garrelts said he believes the thieves targeted his son's show cattle, because more than 700 cattle in the adjoining feedlot were left untouched.

"Whoever did it, it's about as low as you can get to take a kid's show cattle," he said.

Investigators with the Dickinson County sheriff's office said they don't believe the cattle will be found.

"We don't have a lot to go on," Deputy Daren Diers said.

There have been only scattered reports of cattle thefts around the state.

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In Johnson County a farmer reported two cattle missing Dec. 19, said Kevin Kinney, a sheriff's detective. About the same time, the Oxford Sale Barn reported five cattle missing.

"In 18 years here, those are the first two cattle thefts I've investigated," Kinney said.

High prices for cattle "have a lot to do with it," he said.

Don Wagner, manager of the Humeston Livestock Auction, said he's heard of a couple recent thefts.

"I'm afraid there will be more," Wagner said, "but it's not because of high-priced cattle. In my heart of hearts, I believe it's low-life people, probably with a drug habit."

Doug Hess, of Tyler, Minn., who served as a financial adviser to the Garrelts' feedlot business, M &; V Cattle Co., has offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the recovery of Justin Garrelts' cattle and the conviction of the thieves.

"He's one of the finest, most polite and considerate young men I've ever met," Hess said. "I just couldn't get it out of my head how someone could steal from that kid. I'm just sick about it."

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