Rustlers have struck in Cumbria, taking sheep worth £46,800.
Cumbria Police said 26 one-year-old pedigree Swaledale breeding sheep were stolen from a 3.2ha field at Long Marton.
The theft occurred sometime during the late evening of Friday 10 April and the early hours of Saturday 11 April – but details of the crime have only been made public now.
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Sheep farmer and victim John Richardson keeps more than 1,000 sheep at the main farm, Ghyll House in Dufton, said the thieves clearly had knowledge of sheep and expertise in rounding up livestock.
Mr Richardson, a member of the Swaledale Sheep Breeders Association, said: “These sheep were among the best of the flock from that year’s batch. I thought a lot of them.
“It doesn’t look like they have been stolen for the meat market. They were in a field next to hundreds of fattening sheep, which were much easier to steal.
“This would suggest that the thieves have definitely known which sheep to go for. I’m in no doubt that these sheep have been stolen by somebody with plenty of dog power and shepherding skills.”
The sheep have a red-and-blue wool mark on the loin, a slit in the near ear and are stowed on the far ear. The holding numbers on the tags is UK1030 4.
An alert about the crime has been sent out on the NFU Eden Farm Crime Prevention Scheme, a farmer-led crime initiative in collaboration with police.
Amanda Wallbank, the NFU representative in the Appleby area, said: “The NFU will do all it can to help Mr Richardson and the police identify the culprits of this crime.
“The Swaledales must have been stolen to order as a foundation for breeding or to compete at a show.”
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 111 555.