Sheep rustling warning

Farmers in the Scottish Borders have been urged to join together and form a watch scheme after 53 sheep and lambs went missing from a farm.

Police are investigating the theft of the animals from a field at South Fallaknowe Farm, near Eyemouth, Berwickshire, over the course of the past three weeks

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police asked anyone who had seen anything unusual in the area in recent weeks to contact them.

Livestock rustling has been the subject of regular warnings recently. The illegal practice is thought to cost Scottish farmers more than £250,000 a year.

Farmer Ian MacDonald told ITV Border that the thieves are well organised:

South of Scotland MSP and the Lib Dems Rural Affairs spokesperson Jim Hume said:

"Livestock rustling is a particular problem across the Borders given the rural and sometimes remote nature of farms. It costs the industry roughly £250,000 each year and individually it is a hit many farmers cannot take. I would urge farmers to be extra vigilant and to think about putting together a watch scheme with neighbouring farms."

– Jim Hume MSP

Figures show that the cost of sheep rustling increased by 170% between 2010 and 2011.

In the UK, it is thought that 67,000 sheep were stolen at a cost of £6 million last year.

Insurers NFU mutual saw a 166% rise in claims of stolen livestock in Scotland.

Rural Affairs spokesman Tim Price says high meat prices and improved security on farm vehicles aappear to be leading a resurgence in livestock rustling. he said:

"In the last year we have seen a worrying increase in thefts in all livestock rearing parts of the UK. There is a close correlation between the price of commoditiesand the lefel of theft. In recent years it has seen thefts of metal rocket when scrap prices have been high; thefts of diesel from farm, increases in line with oil prices, and now the same thing appears to be happening with livestock."

– Tim Price, rural affairs spokesman, NFU Mutual

Hannah Lomas sent this report for ITV Border