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A Dorset farmer has spoken out about the "demoralising" experience of having dozens of sheep stolen amid a rise in livestock theft.
According to NFU Mutual’s 2021 Rural Crime Report, the cost of livestock theft has risen by 39% in the South West - to over £345,000.
Overall figures for rural theft are down across the UK, but the cost still topped £5million in the West Country with criminals often targeting high-value items like quad bikes and expensive GPS units.
Maiden Castle Farm at Dorchester in Dorset had 30 sheep stolen just before Christmas 2020 - it was the third time they lost livestock to thieves in just five years.
Hazel Hoskin, who runs the farm with her husband Dickie, said: "I don't think it's necessarily that they're picking on us, I think it's definitely something that all farmers are finding is happening."
The couple now have padlocked gates, security barriers at the entrance of the farm and alarm systems to try to prevent thefts. They also work closely with the police, who make regular visits to the farm.
"Your effort is in providing a good life for the animals, so not only is it a bit demoralising when it comes to the financial implications of losing your animals, but it's also the emotional side of things," she said.
Other rural crimes such as dog attacks on livestock and fly-tipping rose sharply across the UK.
The value of sheep and cattle attacked by dogs shot up by 10.2% in 2020 to £1.3million, in a year which saw a surge in pet ownership and countryside visits.