BRAZORIA COUNTY, Texas -

Cattle rustlers struck in Brazoria County earlier this week, and now lawmen in two counties are trying to track them down.

Sometime late Sunday or early Monday morning thieves took four calves and about $1,000 worth of fence wire from the 6E ranch in Damon, Texas, where Neil Yelderman's family has been raising cattle since 1929.

"This ranch is my family's livelihood," Yelderman said. "You feel so violated that somebody comes on your property in the night. Just what kind of lowlife would do that?"

The rustlers broke through a gate and took the calves from a holding pen alongside Highway 36.

It's easy to turn cattle into quick cash. After the drought of 2011 decimated herds across the state, beef prices have never been higher.

"Calves that used to bring a dollar a pound are now bringing three dollars a pound so sure they're very attractive. They are fast fast money," said Yelderman.

In 2009, the Texas Legislature increased the penalty for cattle theft to make the maximum punishment up to 10 years in prison. But since then thefts have continued to rise.Investigator Steve Roberts with the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office says local counties haven't been hit has hard as other parts of the state. But Yelderman fears high prices may be changing that.

"Its only four this time, next time it could be one of my neighbors, it could be a lot more and that's why I'm taking this to heart," Yelderman said.

He's trying to help the sheriff track down the thieves. He posted a portable sign in front of the pen where the cattle were stolen asking for information and offering a reward.

"It's certainly got everybody's attention and everybody talking," said Yelderman.

The Yelderman family is offering a $500 reward and Brazoria County is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest. Fort Bend County deputies are assisting in the investigation.