A shortage in new and second-hand agricultural machinery is fuelling a surge in quad theft from farms across the country, farmers are being warned.
Global supply chain problems, shipping delays and the impact of Covid and Brexit have contributed to waiting lists for new quads and increased demand for second-hand kit.
Theft claims data published by NFU Mutual has revealed that although quad theft fell initially over the pandemic, criminal gangs are now ramping up their efforts.
Its figures show that almost half the quad and ATV thefts reported to the rural insurer in 2021 took place from September to December.
The most targeted counties in the UK for quad theft last year were Cumbria, followed by Kent, West Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.
And over the past few weeks, Scotland has been the latest part of the UK to suffer a spate of thefts.
Quads are vital to livestock farmers, particularly as peak lambing season gets underway.
To help protect farmers, NFU Mutual is sharing security advice with farmers and funding police initiatives to disrupt criminal gangs.
It is also working with manufacturers Honda and Yamaha to provide customers with free tracking and immobilisation equipment on vehicles bought to replace stolen quads and ATVs, following a paid claim.
Bob Henderson, from the agricultural engineering team at NFU Mutual, said the thefts were hitting farmers twice as hard because of the difficulties getting replacement kit.
"The thieves behind this latest surge in quad theft are slicker, more determined and more prolific than before," he warned.
"We cannot emphasise enough the importance of removing keys from machines and securing your quad when it’s not in use.
“Sadly, we have found that thieves will also return to a farm where they have stolen a quad in the hope of being able to steal its new replacement."
The National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) are working with UK police forces to share intelligence and disrupt criminal gangs who are targeting farms.
DC Chris Piggott, agricultural vehicle lead for NaVCIS, said that supply shortages meant criminals were "cashing in on this ready-made illicit market".
"We are also urging people to thoroughly check what they are buying and not to fuel theft against a fellow farmer.
“After removal of keys, trackers and immobilisers are the most effective measures against quad theft acting as both a deterrent and also increasing the chance of police recovering the vehicle and catching the people behind these crimes."
What can I do to better protect vehicles?
NFU Mutual and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service have issued the following advice to farmers:
• Always remove keys and keep them stored securely, away from the vehicle
• When not in use, keep quads and ATVs locked up out of sight
• Install tracking devices and immobilisers to make it easier for police to recover stolen vehicles
• Use CESAR marking to deter thieves and enable police to identify stolen machinery
• Target-harden your quad by creating a security cage or use a mechanical device such as steering brake/lock, ground anchor or wheel clamp when not in use
• Know what you own – keep records of serial numbers and photographs of your kit including unique identifying features
• When buying a new quad insist on a chipped key and immobilisation system