There has been a significant increase in livestock thefts as of recently, with many farmers worrying for their futures.
In the past month, Lancashire farmers have seen over 500 of their sheep taken in four separate incidents, as reported by the Lancashire Evening Post. These sheep, Lancashire Police say, are estimated to be valued at £45,400 (€49,000.)
This recent spate of thefts means that sheep thefts have already increased by over 50% on last year. Local police have warned farmers to be vigilant, saying that these thefts are likely to have been carried out by organised gangs. This was the view of Lancashire police Rural and Wildlife Crime Coordinator, Lorraine Ellwood.
“To steal sheep of these numbers would require knowledge of handling and access to trailers...We strongly believe that thefts of this kind are well organised and with a predetermined destination.”, she told the Evening Post.
One farm in the area, Manor House Farm in Anglezarke Chorley, was particularly hurt by the thefts. They have lost, so far this year, over 300 lambs. They have worked the farm for three generations and say the value of the lambs taken are estimated at over £20,000 (€21,842). Helen Drinkall, one of the farmers at Manor House Farm, said this is not the first time they have been victims of livestock theft.
“This has really impacted on our income. We had a similar incident about six years ago. It’s just so frustrating and not fair. Somebody else is making a profit out of this without doing any work.” she said.
She continued, “It’s very hard to prevent these thefts. It’s so easy for the sheep to be stolen and for their identity tags to be cut out….It’s just so frustrating and not fair. Somebody else is making a profit out of this without doing any work....We have spent valuable time breeding and rearing the animals and nothing has come of it.”
The incidents are now under investigation by specially trained officers in Lancashire. They are calling for the rural community in the area to stay vigilant and report anything suspicious.
Lorraine Ellwood, of Lancashire Police, stated, “This is obviously a concern for us and for the local farming community and we are looking very closely at these incidents....Lancashire Constabulary has invested a lot of time and effort into training our rural officers in rural and livestock theft; what to look for, what questions to ask, and indeed how to handle livestock themselves….We would appeal to the rural community to keep their eyes and ears open and to contact us with any information or suspicious circumstances.”
She continued, “All information received, however small and insignificant you may believe it to be, is vital in assisting us in catching these criminals. ”
A spokesman for the National Farmer’s Union, John Royle, has said the recent rise in sheep rustling in Lancashire reflects a new nationwide trend.
The livestock adviser said, “Unfortunately, these kinds of incidents seem to be on the rise across the country. When you consider that lambs can be worth in the region of £90 each we’re talking about a high value crime.”
He added, “As a general rule rustlers tend to focus on remote and isolated areas away from farm houses and these are typically in the North and West of the country….The thieves are very organised and often have specially trained dogs, four-by-fours or quad bikes to herd the sheep.”
The National Farmers Union have given the below tips to help farmers combat the problem:
Close and lock all gates
Secure sheds and outbuildings.
Lock away machinery and tools.
Uses dogs or geese for warning sounds.
Use mechanical immobilisers on vehicles
Mark livestock correctly
Use security lighting and fit burglar alarms with infrared motion detection.
Add tracking to your vehicles.
Look out for your neighbours
Share suspicious sightings.
Report all crimes to police.
Note: We reported on this to help our farmers protect themselves for farm thefts.