What is likely to have been an organised crime gang, stole eight nearly new, New Holland tractors, collectively worth almost £500,000, from an Oxfordshire farm machinery dealership recently.
Such brazen theft is always a possibility when it comes to high-value farm vehicles. Thieves are attracted to a range of expensive and valuable equipment that can be sold on the black market, including combine harvesters, all-terrain equipment and quad bikes, horseboxes, ploughs, drills, hedge-trimming equipment and tools.
On many occasions, the stolen equipment is shipped overseas by gangs that are often selling to order. They frequently use low-loaders or curtain-sided trailers with changed or missing number plates as their mode of transport. However, on occasions, gangs will strip out the technology within the equipment and sell that on, rather than the machine itself.
As well as having to fend off machinery-seeking thieves, farms are also increasingly falling victim to rustlers. Some farms have lost their whole flock in the course of a night, or found their sheeps’ carcasses on the land, with all meat having been stolen. Rarer, but still possible, is sheepdog theft, particularly if the dog is well-trained. One stolen sheepdog was valued at between £4000 to £5000.
Farmers can access some useful theft deterrents, such as the CESAR marking system – the only police and Home Office-approved plant and equipment registration scheme. This Thatcham-approved system enables the tracing of equipment, via invisible markings that the naked eye cannot detect. Farmers are six times more likely to recover their stolen equipment, if it is marked by CESAR.
An option for protecting livestock is also available in the form of the forensic TecTracer system, which leaves thousands of traceable microdots within a sheep’s fleece.
Equipment and livestock are both highly valuable to both farmers and thieves, so need to be adequately insured. Different levels of cover are available for equipment, in the same way that Comprehensive, Third Party or Third-Party Fire and Theft cover can be chosen by motorists. Farms should also consider insurance for their livestock, their farm buildings and any employees working on the farm. Those in consultancy roles in the agricultural sector may require professional indemnity or E&O cover, to cover any errors in the advice they impart to clients.
2018 saw a seven-year high recorded in crimes against farms, making a review of protection vital, particularly as recession sets in post-Coronavirus lockdown. To speak to an expert, please get in touch.