Paul Kitagaki Jr./ pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Left to right, Bill Azevedo, Rachel Finqerle, Rich Rice, Pat Yaucey and Sherry Azevedo Johnson move rancher Mark Beck's cattle from the field to pens before they brand about 600 head of cattle at Steffan Ranch in Lodi. Cattle theft has risen 22 percent since pre-recession levels and has been helped by a steady rise in cattle prices where a head of cattle can sell for as much as $1,000. Mark Beck is a rancher near Lodi. He has had four steers stolen this year from his ranches in Sacramento, San Joaquin and Calaveras County.

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