Livestock sector urged to be vigilant after series of thefts

THE National Farmers' Union of Scotland has joined forces with the police to issue a warning over sheep-rustling following the theft of more than 300 sheep in the past month or so in the Lothian and Borders area.

At Redhaugh Farm, Cockburnspath, about 200 head of sheep were taken in this latest spate of burglaries, while two weeks ago seven ewes and 14 lambs were stolen from West-ruther Mains Farm, Westruther, and last week, 16 ewes and 32 lambs were stolen from Hollybush Farm, Galashiels.

NFU Scotland announced yesterday that it is working with Lothian and Borders Police officers to tackle this "significant" increase in sheep thefts in the area and, as part of that, the union is urging all livestock farmers across Scotland to be on their guard.

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Although sheep seem to be one of the main targets of the thieves, the spate of thefts also includes a wide range of machinery and house break-ins.

Lisa Roberts, NFU Scotland's regional manager for the area, asked members to note any suspicious activity. She said: "Has there been any unusual livestock transport vehicles in the area? Has there been any unusual activity at farm sales? Do you know of anyone who may be looking to sell more stock than they would normally?

"Are abattoirs and butchers being offered stock from unexpected or unusual sources? Remember this type of theft impacts on the livelihoods of members and we would encourage members to work with the police to track down these thieves."

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: "Police urge farmers and members of the public to take note of any suspicious vehicles in the area, particularly during the night. Most livestock are transported during the day and if you should see a horsebox or livestock lorry at a time when you think you shouldn't, make a note of the registration.

"Similarly, if you see such a vehicle parked next to a field where you know the farmer and don't recognise the vehicle, again, take a note of the registration.

"If you're not sure, report the matter to the police. Let us check these things out.

"If the vehicle and people are genuine they won't mind the police checking – it only takes us minutes to confirm people's identities and the reasons for them being where they are."

He confirmed that the police force would be carrying out additional patrols and road checks in the area in an effort to combat this latest crime wave.