If you want to know what modern cattle rustling is like, just ask Thomas Smith. The rancher had 12 head of cattle stolen on two different occasions in September.

"They just ran the cattle up into the horse trailer from the catch pen," says Smith. He has about 100 head on his farm just north of Clanton, AL. "I was able to get all of them back but one. Some were found at a stockyard in Athens, and others were found just across the line at a stockyard in Tennessee. One of them had already been slaughtered."

A sagging economy and high beef prices have stock thefts on the rise. The Associated Press reports increases in the thefts from across the country. These modern rustlers won't fit the typical Hollywood image of mounted desperadoes wearing 10-gal. hats with bandannas covering their faces, says Billy Powell, executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen's Association.

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