Farmers warned to do more to prevent sheep rustling

A flock of sheep
Image caption Sheep rustling is a problem particularly in Northern Ireland, Wales, Lancashire and Lincolnshire

Farmers are being encouraged to do more to prevent the growing problem of livestock rustling across the UK.

One insurer says cases of stolen animals more than doubled over the last year, compared to the previous year.

In Lancashire, where the problem is particularly bad, police say they will be doing far more spot checks on vehicles carrying livestock.

NFU Mutual estimates more than 60,000 sheep could have been stolen in the UK in the first 10 months of the year.

The insurance company says 9,000 sheep had been stolen in north-west of England alone in the same period.

NFU Mutual says livestock theft is costing UK farmers at least £6m a year based on insurance claims, but the true total is much higher.

Last month, Carmarthenshire farmer Hugh Davies and his wife Mary noticed 150 sheep were missing from their 1,000-head flock on the Black Mountain at Brynamman.

"We are now keen to highlight this problem that is causing havoc among sheep farmers," said Mr Davies.

NFU Mutual's livestock rustling figures for the first 10 months of 2011 showed claims up two-and-a-half times over the previous year.

They also report rises in stolen cattle, pigs and game birds.

Northern Ireland accounted for 20% of livestock claims, followed by south-west England and north-west England.

High meat prices

The company says livestock rustling had fallen to historically low levels since 2000, with farm thieves targeting instead quad bikes, tractors and power tools.

But high meat prices may explain a resurgence in livestock rustling and NFU Mutual draws comparisons with the trade in stolen copper and diesel.

Lamb chops have gone up in price from 1039p per kilogram in July 2008 to 1424p per kilo in July 2011.

Farmers and butchers are being advised to check livestock records and ear tags to make sure they are not buying stolen animals.

NFU Mutual's advice to farmers includes:

  • Padlock gates to fields
  • Make sure stock is marked and records kept up to date
  • Graze sheep away from roads, if possible
  • Join a FarmWatch scheme

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