Ria Rumph wants to send a message to the people who stole her goat on Saturday night.
“I want to let them know that they’ve been seen,” she says. At least two men were noticed sneaking around her farm and loading up her goat. Chilliwack RCMP confirmed they are working on the case, with the help of the Agri-Watch program.
“We’re aware of this, and we take it seriously,” says Corp. Mike Rail. “This is livestock.”
Rumph has had three goats stolen in the last few weeks, causing local farmers to worry that more goat thefts are on the horizon.
“Two weeks ago, two went missing during the day,” Rumph said. And then on Saturday night, her neighbour heard the goats “screaming” and looked out in time to note some pertinent information about the men and their vehicle.
The theft has shaken Rumph, as she worries about the fate of her goats and whether they are being treated properly, or if they’ve already been slaughtered. She hopes they’ve been treated humanely.
It’s a heartbreaking theft that goes beyond the obvious financial losses. Rumph has been raising goats for the last 13 years, at the corner of Lickman Road and South Sumas. Her venture with goats follows years of dairy farming, both here in Canada and in Holland.
The milk from her herd goes just down the road, to Smits & Co.w Farm Cheese, where it’s turned into delicious cheeses.
Goat cheese has been popular for decades, but both goat cheese and meat are becoming more desirable than ever. Meat is in high demand, for its taste and because it’s lower in cholesterol. B.C. goat milk is very popular across Canada, and highly sought after. Goat meat is popular in many different ethnic dishes, and goats often sell for a higher prices around holidays, including Ramadan. But that was more than a month ago, and there are no other holidays right now that Rumph is aware of.
It’s difficult to find goats once they’ve been stolen.
Rumph’s goats don’t have tattoos, and goats are generally not tagged.
“I would know them,” she says, if she saw them. But the only official markings would be the numbers on the chains around their necks.
This is not the first time goat thefts have worried local farmers. Back in November of 2010, about 70 goats in total were stolen from various farms around Chilliwack. Half of them belonged to now-retired goat farmer Susan Barker. And half of those goats were pregnant at the time.
“The police are pretty sure who stole mine,” Barker says. “But nothing was ever done.”
Goats range in price from $150 to $500, depending on numerous factors such as their heritage, their use, and their age.
She said thieves who take farm animals for consumption are risking more than theft charges. They don’t know the history of the goat, whether it’s pregnant or not, or whether it’s sick and on antibiotics.
But that seems not to matter to those willing to take that risk.
“There is a large demand for goat meat and a big shortage,” Barker says. “And then there are some people who just get the pleasure of stealing.”