Rustling costs farmers £6m a year

Rural insurer NFU Mutual estimates that sheep rustling increased by two-and-a-half times in 2011, costing £6m to the industry. More than 60,000 sheep could have been stolen between January and October 2011, continuing the upwards trend observed in the last decade.

The Mutual suspects strong meat prices could encourage livestock theft, comparing it with the recent spikes in stolen copper and diesel.

The NFU advised farmers and butchers to check livestock records and ear tags to ensure they are not buying stolen animals, but also to padlock gates to fields, keep records up-to-date and graze sheep away from roads. Farmers can also join the FarmWatch scheme to try to control rustling.

> Three arrest on suspicion of rustling

> Sheep rustling raises fears of illegal meat on the market

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