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Farm Security – Combatting the Scourge of Rural Crime

Our latest blog on Farm Security – Farmers need to channel their inner old-fashioned ingenuity to help stop rural crime.

‘Scourge of the countryside’, ‘State of siege’, ‘Epidemic’ - that’s just some of the terms that have been used of late to describe the recent hike in rural crime, that is spreading across farms nationwide like a pestilence of old.

Farm Security is an undeniable colossus facing the UK’s agricultural industry – there’s no two ways about that one.  The NFU’s 2018 Rural Crime Report states that ‘in 2017 rural crime cost the UK £44.5m. That means that in 2017, Rural Crime in the UK cost each individual employed in the UK agriculture industry roughly £91.75.  In addition, a nationwide survey quoted recently in a article shows that ‘69% of farmers’ have been victims of rural crime in the last 12 months.

Rural Crime is defined as any crime that occurs in a rural or isolated area, including theft or damage to agricultural vehicles, equipment or animals, besides things such as poaching, hunting, fly-tipping and hare coursing.

Particularly rampant currently is livestock theft, after the police launched an appeal for clues as to the whereabouts of 500 sheep, stolen in Norfolk on January 15th. Any farmer will tell you that discretely carting off 500 sheep is not quite rocket science but requires a fair bit of nouse. I quote an article written by Martin Evans of the telegraph in 2014, who quotes Tim Price of the NFU as saying ‘“Livestock is a lot more difficult to steal than a tractor. It baas, and kicks and you can’t just hide it under a tarpaulin for a while until the heat is off.”  No words can better explain why it takes a professional criminal to steal livestock, especially in large numbers.

Increasingly, as farmers are harking back to ‘medieval’, ‘farm-cum-fortress’ tactics to tackle a modern problem.  Now, ‘alarm systems’ translate as keeping a flock of geese around, or building a high earth bank, last used to protect ancient manors.

If that seems too bizarre, check out this article from the telegraph – the title of which is ‘Llamas join the battle against countryside crime’. According to the article, the fierce animals have proved their worth in protecting sheep from coyotes in Western USA, which has inspired their use on farms in the UK. The article also recommends ‘storing quad bikes in a pen behind a Friesian bull’.  Maybe, protecting high-value agricultural assets only requires a bit of old-fashioned ingenuity, which farmers are blessed with most out of all people in this world. For any inspiration, take a look at this article, which hails a farmer affected by livestock theft in Dartmoor, who subsequently dyed his sheep’s wool orange to prevent sheep rustling.

Other Medieval tactics recommended by the NFU’s 2018 Rural Crime Report included high, stockade-style fences and dykes and ditches – to stop trespassing on farmland from 4 x 4’s, poachers and hare-coursers. The report also recommends ‘single entry points’ (inspired by Norman Castles), which makes it harder for rural thieves and criminals to make an easy getaway. Finally, the report recommends ‘reinforced gates’ as an armoury against ‘ram raids’ in farmyards from vehicles, alongside ‘barricaded strong rooms’ as was used in days of old to store valuables.

Most of all, let’s just stress that farmers can’t shoulder the pressure alone.  Rural communities need to pull together and form a veritable stronghold against rural crime, in collaboration with the Police Force.  Most importantly, maintain links with the police, and report any incidents.  We hope you’ve benefited from this blogpost, please follow us, and tag in anyone who has been affected by rural crime and livestock theft. To summarise, here’s a useful little guide with our recommendations for stopping crime in the countryside.



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