Livestock theft and attacks rise as farmers urged to bolster security

Livestock worth £2.7m were stolen in 2022 amid fears of a new wave of thefts
Livestock worth £2.7m were stolen in 2022 amid fears of a new wave of thefts

Livestock rustling cost an estimated £2.7 million in 2022, up nearly 10 percent compared to the year before, according to NFU Mutual's latest figures.

Farmers are being advised by the rural insurer and police forces to be alert and report any suspicious activity after the publication of the figures.

It follows numerous incidents of theft and illegal butchery involving cattle in Worcestershire in recent weeks.

One case saw cows killed with their hooves bound but left behind in the field, while another saw cows injured with two slaughtered and their heads left in the fields.

To deter thieves, farmers are being advised by the police and NFU Mutual to ensure stock is clearly marked and records are up-to-date.

Farmers should also vary times of feeding and consider relocating stock to fields away from roads, or house them indoors if possible.

Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist, said it was 'alarming' to hear about these 'deeply disturbing crimes'.

“Such attacks like these will be devastating for farmers both emotionally and financially," she said.

“We are also concerned meat from stolen animals is being sold on the illicit market and undermining welfare standards.

"Meat which has been butchered in unhygienic conditions, and may be from animals which have received medical treatment, poses a real threat to human health. We advise the public to not buy meat from unusual sources.”

Superintendent Andy Huddleston, who heads up the National Rural Crime Unit, urged anyone who could help with recent attacks to come forward.

"The inhumane slaughter of these animals and impact it has had upon the farms concerned is terrible and we are working to bring those responsible to justice.

“Together with the NFU Mutual we are calling for rural communities to report suspicious behaviour and if not already, join your local rural watch scheme.”

What can I do to bolster security?

Preventing livestock theft is not as easy as putting a padlock on a building or fitting a security system to a tractor.

However, NFU Mutual says there are a number of steps farmers can take to reduce the risk:

• Ensure stock is clearly marked and records are up to date

• When possible graze livestock in fields away from roads or consider housing them inside

• Check stock regularly - and vary times of feeding/check ups

• Consider a high-tech marking system

• Join a Farm or Rural Watch scheme to share information about rural crime in your area

• Ask neighbours to report any suspicious sightings to the police

• Dial 999 immediately if an incident is taking place - do not approach criminals