ASHBURTON, New Zealand– Cows outnumber people 2-to-1 in New Zealand, but when 500 bovines go missing it’s sure to draw attention.

That’s what happened to a dairy farmer in the town of Ashburton. Speaking to The Guardian, a friend of the cows’ owner said the 500 milking cows could have been taken from a herd of about 1,300 between early July when the herd was last counted and late August. The owner of the cows, who was too embarrassed to speak on the record, posted a plea on Facebook for information as to the whereabouts of the cows. The cows are valued at approximately NZ$1 million.

Meanwhile, Federated Farms, an agriculture industry trade group, called on farmers to be extra vigilant about on-farm security.

The organization, in partnership with FMG and the New Zealand Police, is holding workshops on rural crime prevention around the country to educate producers about rural security issues, according to a notice on the Federated Farmers web site.

Among the tips on offer:

  • Consider installing some kind of monitoring equipment at vulnerable spots on the property, or on main access routes.
  • Anyone offered cheap stock or meat product should note details, and pass them on to the police. Ask family and friends to watch out for this too.
  • A stock truck (or more than one) was very likely used in the Ashburton theft. Be aware of strange truck and trailer movements, at unusual times in your area.  Make notes and take identifying details.
  • Check your stock numbers as often as you can.