THE UK’s leading rural insurer NFU Mutual has funded a new officer to tackle livestock theft.

Martin Beck, who has 30 years of policing experience in the field, will join the National Rural Crime Unit (NRCU) to gather livestock theft-related intelligence across the UK, spot and share trends, work with local police forces to build cases and help build prosecutions and secure convictions against these criminals.

The appointment comes as UK livestock theft cost an estimated £2.7 million in 2022, according to the latest figures from NFU Mutual.

Matthew Screech, NFU Mutual’s lead on livestock theft, said: “Livestock theft is one of the costliest crimes to farming, with claims often involving over 50 sheep taken in a single raid.

“These thefts can have a devastating impact on farming businesses, as well as causing huge worry to farmers about the welfare of the stolen stock.

“We are proud to be the sole funder of the new livestock theft officer role at the National Rural Crime Unit and look forward to working with them closely to identify criminal activity and ensure dedicated police resources are targeted in areas needed most to protect farmers and their livestock.”

Superintendent Andrew Huddleston, who heads up the National Rural Crime Unit, said: “The impact of livestock theft must not be under estimated, it is a crime that is more than just the stealing of a commodity. These animals are the livelihood of many farmers and often the result of several generations of dedicated animal husbandry.

“I am delighted that NFU Mutual has committed to a three-year package to help us support police forces investigate livestock theft across the UK.

“Martin Beck, who has an outstanding history in this specialist field of work, will join the National Rural Crime Unit in February and I would encourage anyone with information about livestock thefts to contact our team.”

Preventing livestock theft

Preventing livestock theft is not as easy as putting a padlock on a building or fitting a security system to a tractor.

However, there are a number of steps farmers can take to reduce the risk and technology is now providing effective ways of tracing stolen livestock.  

To deter livestock thieves, NFU Mutual advises farmers to: 

• Ensure stock is clearly marked and records are up-to-date 

• When possible, graze livestock in fields away from roads or consider housing them inside

• Check stock regularly - and vary times of feeding/check ups 

• Consider a high-tech marking system

• Join a Farm or Rural Watch scheme to share information about rural crime in your area 

• Ask neighbours to report any suspicious sightings to the police

• Dial 999 immediately if an incident is taking place - do not approach criminals.