Farmers are being advised to beef up security after a disturbing spike in farm crime.
The theft of farm machinery, including tractors, quad bikes and telehandlers, rose sharply in August, September and October in parts of the UK.
In Essex, the theft of tractors, quads and telehandlers rose 50%, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual.
In Scotland, the theft of high-value tractors and quads has seen the cost of farm machinery thefts quadruple.
This week, police said they were investigating a number of quad bikes thefts from the West Calder/West Lothian areas.
Quad bikes are also disappearing at an alarming rate from farms on the Yorkshire Dales.
Meanwhile, thieves are continuing to target Land Rover Defenders, since production of this model ended, and tools and equipment from barns and workshops.
This all comes after a year when farm theft levels remained static at an estimated cost of £42.5m in 2015.
Tim Price, NFU Mutual’s rural crime specialist, said the dark nights were presenting thieves with the opportunity to work under the cover of darkness.
“There can be no doubt that both opportunist criminals and organised criminal gangs are targeting farms with a vengeance,” added Mr Price.
Therefore, it was important for farmers to ramp up security to protect rural homes, machinery, livestock and farm equipment.
Report all crimes
Although all farms are different, Mr Price said basic security measures can help foil would-be thieves.
“Are vehicles, trailers and machinery left in the open? Are access gates locked and padlocked? Are warning signs and security lighting clearly visible?”
However, a higher level of security could be needed to prevent determined thieves, he added.
Mr Price urged farmers to report farm crime to police, no matter how big or small, help officers build a picture of rural crime.
To report an incident call the police non-emergency number 101 or 999 in an emergency.
NFU Mutual farm security checklist
- Remove keys and secure cars, tractors, and other vehicles when unattended
- Keep gates to farmyards closed whenever possible
- Fit Cesar Datatag marking systems and immobilisers to tractors
- Use security lighting in yards and drives
- Have the vehicle identification number etched on vehicle windows
- Consider tracking devices for more expensive machines/cars
- Secure ATVs using suitable locking devices or heavy-duty security chain and padlocks
- Record machinery serial numbers
- Mark livestock clearly and count them regularly
- Mark valuable tools and equipment with unique identification
- Lock up tools, equipment and vehicles out of sight