PENDLETON, Ore. -

The state Department of Agriculture says Oregon ranchers must be extra vigilant this summer because high cattle prices are likely to attract thieves.

ODA supervising brand inspector Rodger Huffman says the agency anticipates Oregon ranchers will report 400 to 500 missing livestock this year, of which 20 percent may end up determined as stolen. Other types of losses could stem from weather, disease or predator attacks.

Market prices for cattle are, in some cases, more than twice the average of just a couple years ago. Demand for beef remains strong, and drought has whittled the U.S. cattle herd.

He told the East Oregonian newspaper that ranchers should check on cattle released onto vast rangeland or up in the Blue Mountains.

It also helps to brand livestock in case stolen animals are recovered.