Rustler warning after £25,000 flock stolen

Farmers are being warned a rise in sheep prices could lead to an increase in rustling after a £25,000 flock was stolen from a farm in Lancashire.

William Holden was left “gutted” after thieves stole 271 Texels from his farm near Bury.

Rustlers herded the sheep, worth about £90 each, through a pen and into a large vehicle at some point during the evening of 12 May.

“Sheep are our livelihood. I just felt gutted, like I’d been kicked, when I drove over to the field at Ramsbottom and realised they’d gone,” Mr Holden told the BBC.

“Whoever did it knew all about handling sheep. You couldn’t round that number up and drive them all away without knowing what you’re doing.

The NFU said an increase in sheep prices has made stock more attractive to thieves and warned farmers to be extra vigilant.

“Sheep rustling appears to be on the increase, but we’re more used to hearing about 10 to 50 being stolen,” Carl Hudspith, NFU north-west spokesman said.

Lamb meat prices have risen from £2.70/kg in 2009 to £4.40 in 2010, he said.

“The value of the euro means lamb is no longer being imported and so British lamb prices have rocketed, so that may be a reason why thieves want to take sheep,” he added.

Sgt Ben Hodgkinson from Lancashire police said it was likely the thieves know how to handle sheep and had knowledge of animal husbandry.

“I would ask anyone who saw anything in respect of the theft of the sheep, or anyone who has any other information that might assist in their recovery, to contact the police.”