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rural crime

'Cattle and sheep are being hand-fed and prepped to be taken by criminals'

Around 2,000 thefts from farmyards are reported each year. Farmers are being urged to be vigilant. / YouTube

FARMERS ARE BEING urged to be on the lookout for suspicious activity around their land and property – and to take note of anything out of place, even if it appears insignificant at first.

Crime prevention officer with the Irish Farmers’ Association Colin Connolly, who spoke to at the Ploughing Championships this week, said it was important for farm-owners and managers to take photos of their vehicles and equipment and to register them in the TheftStop scheme.

More than 28,000 farm-related crime incidents have been reported to the gardaí since 2010, according to the latest CSO figures.

The most common incidents are thefts from farmyards, with more than 2,000 incidents being reported every year since 2010. The next most common occurrence is theft from outhouses or sheds, followed by burglary.

A Garda initiative to directly tackle organised burglary gangs, Operation Thor, was launched late last year.

“Suspicious activity comes in many shapes and forms,” Connolly said – noting that he had been told of two recent cases where it was believed livestock were hand-fed by criminals, days before they were taken.

“If you have cattle or livestock, if you feel your cattle or livestock are not taking feed as they normally would, just be on the lookout.

I’ve spoken to farmers who have had sheep taken and when they’ve looked back in hindsight they think that the sheep haven’t been taking their feed properly for a number of weeks and the sheep happened to be taken.

shutterstock_359718683 Shutterstock / Stockimo Shutterstock / Stockimo / Stockimo

Connolly urged farmers to be on the lookout for fence-posts that had been removed or flattened, and said a close eye should be kept on how animals were behaving.

In some scenarios, cattle and sheep are being hand-fed and being prepped to be taken by criminals. That demonstrates a degree of organised criminality to it.

“In my own experience criminals tend to scope an environment at the time when they plan to commit their crime – so they want to replicate the scenario. They’re not going to visit the property at 2 o’clock in the day because they want to see what the property will be like at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

The TheftStop scheme, which farmers are being advised to sign up to, gives a unique registered ID that farmers can mark their machinery with, making the items more difficult to sell on and therefore less attractive for thieves.

Read: A new fund could give farmers a chance to diversify their businesses>

Read: Almost 40 sheep killed in dog attack on west Kerry farm>

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