More than 1,300 head of cattle were stolen or reported missing last year according to Greg Lawley, head of the state's Bureau of Livestock Identification.
He said that's a 22% increase from pre-recession numbers, and coinciding with the increase, the USDA says that cattle prices hit record highs in 2011 and 2012.
One steer can sell for at least one thousand dollars.
There are roughly 3,000,000 head of cattle in California, most of them dairy cows, but 575,000 head roam the range, often with no more protection than a brand.
Officials say most thefts are inside jobs.