Livestock theft is on the increase, Insurance claims in the UK for livestock topped £6.6 million last year.
Rural businesses and farms are being targeted by well organised thieves. In previous years we have seen the audacity of these thieves grow to exponential proportions as expensive and cumbersome farm equipment is stolen to order. They scope out the desired machinery, targeting specific makes and models, they take note of routines and before a crime can be reported the equipment is in a lorry on its way to the nearest sea port.
Is this what’s happening now with the dramatic increase in livestock theft? Who knows! Looking at the story that made national headlines today, it seems sheep thefts are on the rise.
There are many theories floating around, the favourite seems to be that thieves target a flock with a buyer lined up, the flock are taken to an abattoir and slaughtered making tracing the sheep exceptional difficult. I am not saying this theory has any ‘legs’ to it, but how on earth do you hide a flock of sheep?
Since the 1st of January 2015, it has been a legal requirement for all sheep to be electronically tagged. This will certainly help the authorities to identify stolen sheep if they stop a suspect vehicle. Utilising stick readers to identify sheep does give farmers some hope, but the authorities have to find them first and if the thieves cut the tags off, then relying on this method might be pure folly. There is also the ‘Shepherds Guide’ – the old fashioned way of identifying flock members, but as you will see in the BBC report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34059850 it takes skill to identify particular flocks. Is a traffic policeman in Manchester carrying around a Shepherds Guide? Even if he is, will he be able to utilise it?
Sheep farmers in remote locations rarely count their flock, so in previous years the theft of a few animals might not be noticed and reported for a considerable period of time. However, now the thieves are upping their game and stealing larger quantities of animals. It will be interesting to see how the farming community tackles these thefts, surely preventative measures must be taken to safe guard what is essentially sheep farmer’s livelihoods?