People living in rural communities in the West Country are being urged to be vigilant following a string of livestock thefts in the last fortnight.
One incident saw 240 sheep taken overnight from a field near Langport in Somerset.
In the last two weeks we have seen a dramatic increase with six incidents of sheep thefts in a short space of time.
Sheep theft can have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of farmers and small holders - they not only have to buy new stock but it takes a long time to build up a well-establish flock again.
Police are asking people to be on the lookout for anyone moving livestock around, particularly at night. If you see people in fields or with vehicles containing livestock at night, please give the police a call.
Although sheep appear to be the main targets, other livestock such as pigs and geese have also been stolen.
Advice to farmers:
ensure that your animals are tagged
boundaries and gates should be kept in good order and wherever possible locked
put something heavy in front of gates to make life harder for thieves
don’t leave trailers or anything that can be used to steal/transport the sheep
don’t leave keys in vehicles, even if they are in your yard
if you are keeping or rearing animals in barns or out-buildings, make sure that gates and doors are locked
"Anything you can do to make life more difficult for thieves will help minimise the risk of losing livestock."
The thefts could also be a safety issue.
PC Drabble warns that livestock theft can also potentially mean stolen animals are getting into the food chain.
"Farmers raise their animals, transport and slaughter them according to strict guidelines, which thieves are not necessarily going to adhere to."
There is no guarantee that the animals will be fit, healthy and dealt with correctly if they are arriving into people’s freezers via illegitimate channels.