DNA from cows expected to be great evidence against rustlers

Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Agent demonstrates how to take a hair sample.

Judicial Investigators are being trained to help ranchers obtain and provide DNA samples of their stock as possible evidence in rustling cases.

The informational effort is by the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal and the Sección de Inspecciones Oculares y Recolección de Indicios of the judicial agency.

Some 17 judicial agents received instructions Wednesday, and the goal is to obtain samples from 3,000 head of cattle.

There are many ways to identify cows, including the Old West method of branding the young stock. Less painful methods have been tattooing the ear or perhaps even clipping the ear according to some code.

Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Samples taken in Liberia were not always hair.

However, judicial investigators said they believe that DNA, when presented in court and when it has been subject to a chain of possession, is iron-clad.

Rustling is epidemic in Guanacaste and in the northern zone. Usually the stolen animal is quickly reduced to meat, so branding or ear tattoos will not provide identification.

Of course. a DNA sample also could be used to identify offspring.

Alex Chavarría Solano, an agent involved in the program, was quoted by the judicial agency as saying that the DNA test in court has a 99 percent certainty.

One preferred method of getting a DNA sample is by simply clipping some hair from the tail of a cow. Hair does not require refrigeration, the agency noted.

There is an emphasis on handling the sample so the test can standup in court.

Under other circumstances, samples of blood, bone, teeth or skin can provide a DNA sample.

Agents were in Liberia last week providing instructions to agents and cattle owners there.

Investigators also said that a big problem is that only an estimated 20 percent of cattle thefts are reported to authorities.

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