Figures released by NFU Mutual this week showed the number of livestock thefts had risen 11 per cent in the last two years, with police forces struggling to bring offenders to justice.
Organised rustling gangs stole stock worth £2.5 million from UK farms last year in a crime spree victims fear has ’spiralled out of control’.
Figures released by NFU Mutual this week showed the cost of livestock thefts had risen 11 per cent in the last two years, with police forces struggling to bring offenders to justice.
Beef, sheep and arable farmer John Hoskin, who farms 1,200 mules and Suffolk mules in Dorchester, said rustling on his farm began about 15 years ago and he had since lost about 500 sheep.
The worst incident cost the farm about £25,000 when thieves took 232 sheep.
Mr Hoskin said: “This is someone who comes in with an experienced dog – it is not an amateur job. You have to have a professional person with a dog, a rogue haulier and a rogue recipient.”
He said cuts to police budgets meant forces were under resourced to deal with rural crime, adding the issue would continue to spiral if action was not taken soon.
Reintroducing police powers to stop and search between dawn and dusk could be a useful tool, he said.
“You get to a point where you think why I do keep these sheep, how much longer do we have to go on like this with people not getting caught," added Mr Hoskin.
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price said rustling had moved from a local crime involving a handful of livestock to an organised crime with ‘dozens or even hundreds of sheep worth thousands of pounds being taken in a single raid’.
Northern Ireland, the Midlands and South West were the worst affected areas in 2018.
One farmer, who asked to remain anonymous, had a pair of sheepdogs stolen in 2017. Both dogs were recovered about six months later during a police raid on a prolific thief, he said.
“Not long after the dogs returned, one got out of the barn and started rounding sheep up in the pitch black,” he said. “It happened again the next night - I realised they had been stolen specifically to steal sheep.
“As a result I have improved security and invested in CCTV and I would urge others to do the same and for anyone with a dog to get the vet to check your dog’s microchip is still in place.”