FARMERS already struggling to feed stock in the drought are being dealt a double blow as cattle and stock theft rises across the New England North West.
Rural crime detectives say cattle stealing and trespass reports have not waned in the drought, which victims say is one of the worst in living memory.
Oxley investigators have made two public appeals this month after the brutal slaughter of one pregnant heifer on a farm, while a cattle herd was taken from another.
"The drought is obviously no barrier to the mindset of these cattle thieves," Oxley Rural Crime Detective Senior Constable Les Wallace said.
"They simply have no morals or any regard for the hard working people who have struggled to keep these cattle alive during the drought."
Police are cracking down on NLIS-related offences and checking stock movements and cattle yardings as they try and find where the stolen cattle are being offloaded. Detective Wallace said they were also monitoring if the stock were being sold into abattoirs directly by offenders.
In the latest incident, the 18 Simmental/Brahman cross cattle were aged between two and six.
Bill and Vicki Braun had ear tags and brand markings on their cattle and locked gates on their farm at Coomoo Coomoo, near Quirindi, but still fell victim to calculated, and what police say are "heartless" thieves.
"The theft of livestock is devastating to our farmers, many of whom are already financially struggling," Detective Sergeant Bennett Nolan said.
"Victims of theft are impacted not only through the immediate loss of the value of the stock, but also the loss of future earning potential and the costs of supplementary feeding the cattle which have been stolen."
The cows varied in red, white and cream colour, but had red ear-tags with 'Coomoo Coomoo' printed on front in nearside ear; as well as their registered brand, 'TCU' with bar over the T, on the nearside rump; along with an NLIS tag in offside ear.
In a separate incident, a 19-month Limousin heifer that was heavily pregnant was slaughtered and had her hide professionally removed near Tamworth.
Police said the carcase was stolen and the unborn calf and remains were dumped on the Currububula property, with the owners offering a $1000 reward for information to catch those behind the brutal killing.
"It's deplorable to do that to an animal - a heavily pregnant heifer, too," stud farmer Barbara Bricknell said.
The heifer had been missing since the end of February, but the remains were discovered strewn across a paddock on May 30 and the skull a day later, stuffed down a hollow tree stump on the property.
"We would encourage producers to ensure that all of their stock are identified in some way, whether it be a combination of or using all available identifiers including brand, tattooing, earmark, husbandry tags and NLIS tags," Detective Wallace said.
"In this instance they identified the theft through their regular stock checks, which assists us to initiate inquiries to identify the offenders involved.
"Without some type of identifier on stock, it makes proof of ownership and returning them very difficult. We understand that NLIS tags can be cut out, so regularly checking of stock to ensure stock numbers are correct is essential.
"Landholders should also identify potential weak points on the property, and chain padlock gates fronting public roads and secure stock yards when they are not in use, particularly if they are near a public road.
"Take note of any unfamiliar vehicles or people arriving at your property."
Police said in both instances it would have taken more than one offender. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Oxley Rural Crime Unit on 6768 2999.