With combating rural crime on the minds of many farmers, Farmers Weekly’s Machinery team has gathered together a selection of high-tech items that could help stiffen up on-farm security.
In our Ultimate guide to farm security, we highlight some of the kit on offer to help farmers dissuade thieves and fly-tipper from setting foot on their farms.
Featuring locks, chains, alarms, gates and CCTV from a range of companies there should be something to suit every budget.
Padlocks come in all shapes and sizes, with prices ranging from £5 to £150. Better-quality items come with a European CEN standard ranging from one to six in terms of ease or difficulty of overcoming it.
Don’t get a cheapie lock – instead look out for well-known makes, such as Abus, Squire, APC, Sterling and Abloy, and be prepared to spend £20-£40.
Check whether they are water resistant, too, if they are sitting in the wind and rain day in, day out.
There are also padlocks that sound an alarm if they are tampered with. APC, has a modestly priced 8mm shackle LK-333 model for £6.36.
Once you have set the padlock (you have 15 seconds to do that) it will activate an alarm if anyone moves it and there’s a failsafe system to stop the wind accidentally setting it off.
The design of the padlock can also make a difference. A hardened shroud makes it relatively difficult to get bolt croppers on to the shackle.
So, can any padlock withstand a burglar armed with a cordless grinder? It depends whether they are making a racket or not.
Some manufacturers claim that their shackle has ceramic inserts to slow down the grinder’s progress.
It’s true that a really determined thief with a 42in set of bolt cutters or a cordless grinder can cut through even a 13mm padlock shackle, but they’re heavy and cumbersome and so are less likely to be taken on thieving forays.
Chains and shackles
Tom Richardson from CJ Supplies, a company conducts more than 100 security surveys a year for farmers and landowners, says that farmers need to upgrade the chains they have traditionally used to secure field gates.
An 8mm chain link is too small, 10-13mm is the norm and 16mm will stop most thieves. Also, you need 1m of chain per gate to do a proper job of securing them.
The cost of CJ Supplies’ chain is £35/m for 10mm link and £50/m for 13mm. Chains sold at local DIY places are cheaper, but tend to be weaker.
A weld-on hasp on a padlock can be very effective and padlocks need to be enclosed, not exposed. Good padlocks need to be serviced, if they are to last.
CJ Supplies also sells the Mul-T-Lock range, which uses one patented key to operate several different types of lock.
Shackle diameters on the NE Series padlocks go from 8mm to 14mm, while the C Series stretches from 8mm to 16mm.
If you have a shed with something really important to guard, the high-tech but somewhat pricey Mul-T-Lock KonnectLock incorporates GPS location and a SIM card. It tells you when someone has opened and closed the padlock by sending you an email or text.
If you want to keep an eye on the farmyard but don’t want to shell out a lot of money on security and spend ages staring at CCTV footage, a driveway alarm could be the answer.
There are several of these about, but here are a couple of well-known makes.
They all do more-or-less the same thing, which is to set up a beam across a driveway using passive infra-red. If the beam is broken, an alarm or light will go off in the house, workshop or any other buildings.
Dakota, sold by Northampton company Ultrasecure, sells a simple Dakota 2500 driveway and perimeter alarm.
You can set it up as far as 800m from the house or farm office and if someone breaks the beam, it will sound the alarm. The beam is narrow, so it won’t pick up rabbits and rats.
You can alter the volume of the alarm from gentle to ear-splitting, so there’s no danger of missing the alert.
Cost is £180 plus £20 for a fake bird box to disguise the receiver and the PP3 battery should last for nine to 18 months. You can add a siren or bell for about £200.
Dakota also sells a useful vehicle-detecting driveway alarm system that you bury a couple of inches under a track or roadway.
This means you know if a tractor, pickup or car has come into the farmyard rather than a staff member, cow or walker. The cost is £300.
Alarms for Farms
Kelso, Roxburghshire-based company Alarms for Farms has been installing alarm systems, CCTV and GPS trackers since 1994 and was set up by farmers.
Its £200 Standard Active Solar Dual-beam Gateway Alarm lets you set an infra-red solar-powered 20m beam across a gateway, though beams up to 200m (£349) are offered.
If anyone drives or walks through, an alarm goes off in the farmhouse, farm office or farm building up to 800m away. No groundworks are needed.
A 15-day battery pack and small solar panel on top of each beam unit allow completely wire-free installation.
However, if the beam is in permanent shade, you can add a £25 50mmx100mm solar booster on a wire that can be placed in a sunnier spot.
A mains power supply is also available for any beams that are to be sited within a building or tractor shed.
Beam alignment is simple, says the company, with an audible beep confirming correct alignment. For longer beams (60m and above), a £15 laser pen helps installation.
The receiver can be connected to a telephone dialler, which will alert you or a neighbour in the event of an intrusion and up to ten numbers can be alerted by voice call or text message.
Gates and barriers
One of the great traditional things about farms is you can usually drive in, park your car and go and knock on the front door.
However, with more and more petty thieves and fly-tippers, it is getting increasingly necessary to install some form of gate.
But what are the options for achieving security without nuisance? There are lots of makers out there, and here are some possibilities.
Norfolk farmer Jim Alston has been selling his Dofygate gates for several years.
Rather than going down the traditional wood gate route, he designed a lightweight and rather more high-tech option.
As you approach, you press a button in the car/truck/tractor or on foot and the gates quickly open and then close behind you.
The gate is solar-powered and gives off a mild shock to deter dogs and livestock.
Prices go from £993 to £2,296 depending on how much tech you want.
Cambridgeshire manufacturer Tailormade reckons its road blockers are all but impregnable.
Two heavy-duty gates plus a massive 20mm-thick steel flap that rises up from a trench via two top-links makes it impossible to get through, says the company’s Alan Rogerson.
It is powered by a combination of a 12V 200Ah battery and solar power (so there’s no need for a mains supply) and it can open and close 100 times a day for five days even if there is no wind or sun.
It can also be fitted with a SIM card to allow you to control it remotely.
Cost of a 3m unit plus gates is £9,500 and most farmers would do their own groundworks to keep costs down.
Essex company Wellington Security has been making farm gates for 15 years and specialises in swinging and trackless sliding gates.
Standard opening widths are 4m upwards and the company’s Paul Gilder says trackless types are becoming more popular as they give more protection against ram-raiders.
The gates can be supplied galvanised and/or powder-coated, he says, and four out of five are now specified with GSM technology access control.
This means you can open the gate via your mobile phone without having to be physically anywhere near it.
Costs are typically from £4,000 for a swinging gate and £7,000 for a sliding gate.
Both types can be configured to work from solar power so there’s no need to have a mains supply.
Northampton-based company Gatecare offers something a bit different from other gate makers.
t allows you to motorise an existing gate by fitting a linear actuator gate-opening system that is wholly powered by solar, so there is no need for mains power or underground cables.
The 10W unit is aimed at users opening and closing the gate 10-20 times a day, the 18W unit will suit people opening/closing the gate 20-60 times a day and the 28W unit is for those likely to move it 60-100 times a day.
Gates from 3.6m up to 12m can be motorised and if there is something in the way of the gate the system will automatically open again.
You can open or close the gates remotely from your mobile phone, too.
Prices go from £2,000 to £5,000, though most set-ups cost £2,500 to £3,000.
Hertfordshire company Turnpikes offers 4.8m galvanised swing gates for £3,500 to £5,000, depending on how much automation you want.
They are factory assembled, pre-wired and can be relatively simply bolted down to the customer’s prepared base.
A safety beam stops the gate if someone is in the way and key fob operation plus entry and exit keypads are offered.
Sliding gates are a bit more expensive, it says – £5,500 to £8,500 – and quick-to-open 5, 6 and 7m openers are available.
A cantilever system means there is no track needed on the ground and a safety beam should stop any accidents.
There are dozens of CCTV systems out there, from big-name companies and small specialists.
Some will do the whole thing for you from start to finish, while others require you to do a bit of work.
Prices can vary massively, so look at one or two companies before handing over the cash.
There are also quite a few local CCTV specialists that already deal with farmers, such as CCTV Systems (Cheshire), Farmer’s Eye (Dundee) and Agricamera (Devon) so it’s worth having a look locally.
Scottish firm Alarms for Farms also now sells CCTV with full HD cameras (1,920×1,080P) that can be installed around the farm for security and calving.
They are all linked by wireless access points to your existing router, allowing you to view the footage on any PC, tablet or smartphone.
Want to do it yourself? Maplins sells Swann CCTV. An eight-channel 1TB CCTV kit with four cameras and a digital video recorder (DVR) costs a reasonable-sounding £350.
It has 1,080 HD and the cameras have night vision up to 15m.
Movement and heat trigger the passive infrared (PIR) sensor and starts recording and there’s a 102deg vertical field of view. However, you can’t connect remotely via your phone.
A four-camera wireless CCTV setup from Spaldings will cost you £1,516.
For that, you get four cameras and a 500GB digital video recorder (DVR) for monitoring livestock and barns/machinery.
The range is 300m in the day and 30m in the dark and you can use cable to go round trees and buildings.
The DVR starts recording only when the cameras spot movement so you won’t have to struggle through hours of footage.
You can hook up the DVR to the internet to see live footage remotely on a PC, phone or iPad.
Bushnell’s Trophy Essential E3 trail camera is usually aimed at people who want to get pictures of wildlife but it can be good for capturing fly-tippers too.
The camera can sit there for 12 months on a set of batteries until a vehicle or person breaks the sensor’s PIR beam.
At that point, the camera can capture one to three pictures in a burst or five to 60 seconds of video at a time. The camera’s 16 MP resolution should give you good, clear images.
This £160 version won’t tell you that the beam has been broken and send pictures/video – you have to stomp out to the field or wood and take out of the card.
If you want to know immediately someone has broken the beam, you can go for the £240 Trophy Cam HD Wireless.
This will send the images straight to your mobile phone via 4G (assuming you have decent reception).
Want something a bit simpler and cheaper? Redditch firm ESPUK offers a range of GuardCam all-in-one units.
The basic kit costs about £90 and combines an LED floodlight, audible warning and 1,080x720P high-definition CCTV recording.
It can store 60,000 still images or 750 20-second video clips, and the PIR detector has a range of 12m.
Images are kept on an SD card (standard is 4GB but you can have up to 32GB) and times and dates of events are automatically recorded.
You have to take out the SD card to view it, but that won’t be a problem for most people.
If you are using CCTV as part of your business (as opposed for leisure purposes), then technically you could come under the 1998 Data Protection Act. That means you can’t hide CCTV cameras and should have a sign that says CCTV is being used for the purposes of crime prevention.
You should also ensure that the cameras aren’t pointed at other householders and businesses.
Amateur CCTV footage can be used in a court to secure a conviction, but there should be a clear audit trail to show where the footage has come from and when.
Check, too, that you have formally notified the Information Commissioner’s Office, describing your use of personal data. This costs £35/year.
Have you come up with a good solution to farm security? If so, get in touch by emailing email@example.com with a picture and short explanation of how it was made. We’ll feature the best ones in a later issue of Farmers Weekly.