Livestock rustling's making a comeback
Although commonly associated with a by-gone age, livestock rustling witnessed a dramatic increase this year, with reports from Somerset claiming that as many as £65,000 worth of livestock had been stolen over the four-month period of summer alone.
While the recent NFU Mutual Rural Crime Survey claims that agricultural crime within the United Kingdom declined in 2012 compared to the previous year, livestock thefts continued to rise, with a total of £500,000 worth of stock stolen within the UK.
Unfortunately, this trend appears set to continue in 2013, with reports from Northern Ireland estimating that 3,000 head of cattle have been stolen so far this year and various large-scale incidents of theft have occurred all over England.
In August, 120 sheep were stolen from a moorland farm in County Durham, 98 rare breed sheep – worth an estimated £15,000 – disappeared from a farm in Devon and in July, 127 pigs were taken from a farm in Norfolk.
FREE home energy survey - BEAT THE ENERGY PRICE CRUNCH!View details
Call us on 01271 323309 and book your FREE home energy survey during December. Let us help you reduce your energy bills as well as your carbon footprint.
Valid until 20th Dec 2013
Consultation is completely free
No obligation and impartial advice
Contact: 01271 440974
Valid until: Friday, December 20 2013
Devon and Cornwall police alone claim that £30,000 worth of sheep were stolen throughout the region during the four months of summer this year; amounting to around 300 animals.
What is particularly galling to many victims is that the skill required to carry out such thefts also indicates that the criminals come from within the farming community; by tradition a very honest, mutually supportive and hard-working collective.
In order to steal larger numbers of livestock, criminals require knowledge of the local area, access to suitable transportation vehicles and good stockmanship skills. Multiple accomplices and – in the case of sheep rustling – a well trained working dog also appear to be essential requirements. As such there is a general consensus from the police and farmers that most of these thefts are being arranged by committed, specialist gangs.
This thinking is given greater credibility considering that, as of yet, no stolen stock has been recovered by the police; suggesting that it has been successfully sold on or butchered. Organised criminal operations are far more likely to have the resources to forge the animal documents and possess the relevant contacts within the abattoir business to enable this to happen.
With animals often being kept in isolated areas, away from main farm buildings, livestock can prove a relatively low-key target for skilled criminals; with members of the public often oblivious to the fact that the person loading livestock into trailers is not the farmer who owns them. Tractors can be locked, farm buildings alarmed, but livestock are by necessity isolated and often unprotected. As such they offer a tempting target to thieves.
Relatively high livestock prices have also helped motivate the theft of animals, with sheep and cattle having witnessed significant price hikes this June; with reports from Defra indicating that deadweight sheep prices have risen by 26.8 per cent compared to the same point in 2010 and live-weight cattle prices around 43per cent higher than three years ago; fetching on average 210.5 p per/kg at market.
Short of mounting a 24-hour vigil against stock theft, there is very little that farmers can do to stop determined thieves, other than locking gates to fields and hoping for the best.
In many cases, the isolated nature of where stock is kept and the natural lay of the land mean that cases of theft can go unnoticed for days at a time.
While CCTV systems and motion detection devices fitted to the entrances of fields to forewarn of potential thieves have been recommended as potential solutions, the costs associated with such technology when widely employed on a farm prove unworkable for the vast majority of stock owners.
As such, the police have called upon farmers to be extra vigilant, check on stock more regularly and to report any suspicious activity spotted on their land; the hope being that by doing so a better pattern of thefts can be established, targeted patrols arranged and thieves prevented from carrying out these increasingly costly crimes.