Farmers have been warned to prioritise the safety and security of livestock amidst rising levels of organised theft in recent months. 

According to rural insurance company, NFU Mutual, three million pounds worth of livestock was stolen from UK farms in the last year and this trend seems to be on the rise. A spate of highly organised large-scale sheep thefts has been reported in recent months. 

The sharp spike in theft (11% over two years) has raised an alarm for UK farmers and rural communities to be on high alert for criminals. Concerns have also been raised over recent reports of animals being slaughtered in fields. As the safety and security of livestock becomes increasingly complex, it is important to consider the ramifications criminal activities may have on small farms across the country.

Livestock theft is the most costly crime for the UK’s agricultural sector. It claims the top spot ahead of agricultural vehicles and farm machinery. However, it is only in recent years that this kind of theft has become so well organised. In a single raid, thousands of pounds worth of livestock are being taken. Thieves are even relying on stolen sheepdogs to assist them in rounding up the animals before loading them into lorries. 

This new reality for livestock theft is particularly worrying for small farms, as the loss of livestock can wipe out profits and cause severe disruptions to the day-to-day running of the farm. Livestock theft can also cause untold suffering to animals as they experience high levels of anxiety during the operation.

NFU Mutual has established three distinct categories of livestock theft that is currently taking place:

  • Large scale theft – organised criminals stealing livestock destined for the food chain
  • Pedigree – animals stolen for their high value as breeding stock
  • Money laundering – organised gangs that buy and sell sheep at auctions to launder money

What can you do to ensure the safety and security of livestock?

When purchasing livestock, insurance companies recommend checking livestock records and making use of ear tags to ensure you are not buying stolen animals. 

It is also best to avoid purchasing meat from unfamiliar sources as you may unknowingly be buying meat of stolen livestock. It is also necessary to consider how this meat has been butchered as unhygienic conditions can pose a real threat to human health. Always look for the Red Tractor logo to avoid buying stolen meat which has been slaughtered in unregulated abattoirs.

On the farm, there are several steps that you can take to reduce the risk of livestock theft.

NFU Mutual has provided the following suggestions:

  • Make sure field gates have been padlocked
  • Mark stock clearly and keep records up to date
  • Graze livestock in fields away from busy roads
  • Ensure that stock is checked regularly and vary the times of feeding/check-ups
  • Rely on neighbours to report any unusual sightings
  • Join a neighbourhood watch scheme
  • Invest in a high-tech marking system such as Smarter Technologies’ Cattle Collar
  • Install a smart security system that gives you real-time data and instant alerts of a security breach

Smart Internet of Things (IoT) technology is one resource that is proving to be very useful as a means of theft prevention and the tracking of stolen animals.

Smarter agriculture security

Smarter Technologies’ smart agriculture security and herd management solutions monitor all of the assets on your farm. Equipment, outbuildings, crops, fuel and livestock can all be secured in real-time with our secure Orion Data Network. Using remote site technology to manage assets, access ways, fences, doors, livestock and staff members, you can detect livestock and crop disease early, track and recover lost and stolen equipment and secure your rural business, home and workers.

Cattle collar

Smarter Technologies Group’s Cattle Collars gives you remote visibility of the location of your livestock. The data is updated every 15 minutes. You can save both money and time by checking on your livestock using our bespoke dashboard that allows you to receive notifications if livestock moves out of a designated area.

Farm machinery and livestock security

When you use our Orion Data Network to monitor your premises, you are given a comprehensive view of and total control over your farm assets. This includes who is visiting, where your workers are located and the health and security of your livestock. It is cost-effective and easily scalable.

Find out more about Smarter Technologies’ Group Smarter Agriculture Security Solutions.