Farmers in the South West have been told to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police following a sharp rise in quad bikes.
The South West saw a notable rise in quad bike thefts in 2022, and the continued increase in thefts this year has prompted a warning to farmers to ramp up their security.
Latest theft claims figures from rural insurer NFU Mutual show a 26% annual increase in the cost of quad theft, bringing the total value to £2.8m in 2022.
Quad thefts at busy lambing time can create additional challenges for many smaller family farms, on top of caring for their sheep when they are at their most vulnerable.
With thieves targeting the many sheep farms where quads are a vital tool, NFU Mutual said farmers in the South West must take extra security measures to avoid becoming victims.
Bob Henderson, from the agri engineering team at NFU Mutual said: “Quads are a vital tool for farmers who often look after hundreds of sheep single-handedly.
“A shortage of new machines has driven the price of second-hand quads higher and this has led to a feeding-frenzy from criminal gangs who steal the vehicles to sell on in the UK and across the globe.
“Farmers are waking up to noises in their farmyards to find that thieves have cut through toughened locks and smashed barn doors to steal their quads.
“The thefts leave farmers with extra work when their sheep and new-born lambs need constant attention, and quads are often the only way to get to those in remote hilly areas, especially in bad weather.
“The supply chain problems which are driving up prices are also making it difficult for farmers to source replacement machines when their quads are stolen.”
To help protect farmers, NFU Mutual is working with quad manufacturers to provide customers with free tracking and immobilisation equipment on vehicles bought to replace stolen quads and ATVs, following a paid claim.
Mr Henderson added: “To reduce the risk of becoming a victim of quad theft it’s vital to always remove keys when not on the machine and always secure your quad when it’s not in use.
“Thieves often will return to a farm where they have stolen a quad in the hope of being able to steal its replacement.
"o beat repeat quad thefts, we’re working with manufacturers to provide our customers who have had a quad stolen with free tracking devices and immobilisers.”
DC Chris Piggott, from the National Construction and Agri Thefts Team (NCATT), said tracking, immobilisation and security marking were the most effective measures against quad theft.
"They deter thieves and make it easier for police to catch the gangs behind these crimes," he explained.
“To avoid buying a stolen piece of kit and fuelling the criminal trade, we’re urging farmers to obtain serial numbers for the quad and check these with companies such as HPI who can fully provenance them.
“Also speak to your local dealership to see if they have any records of the quad or ask for copies of original invoices from the seller.
“Do not meet people in lay-bys or service stations, go to their house and conduct your business inside to ensure they are a resident there."
PC Julian Fry, rural affairs officer for Devon and Cornwall Police, said farmers should be extra vigilant in the countryside and report any suspicious activity to police.
“Quads are not the only item on farms that are targeted by thieves with trailers also being particularly targeted due to similar supply chain issues," he said.
"Much of the crime prevention advice applies to other types of equipment as well so this is a timely reminder for farmers and others in our rural communities to take stock and review their current security measures.”