Farmer’s fury over rustlers
AFARMER says he has now had more than 200 sheep stolen from his fields after thieves struck again.
Chris Heath, 35, of Sutton End Farm, Higher Sutton, has had more than 200 sheep taken over recent years – worth around £30,000.
Eleven shearling ewes were taken from his field last month, each worth an estimated £200.
This followed incidents in July 2013 when four pedigree Beltex ewes and 33 lambs were stolen, and in 2010 57 ewes worth £160 each and 114 lambs were taken.
It comes as figures from insurer NFU Mutual shows
‘It’s well organised, they are professional. It’s our livelihood’
rural crime is on the rise, with incidents of livestock theft - or sheep rustling - up 25 per cent in 2013, one of the worst years on record.
Chris, who is married to Helen and dad to Holly, eight, and Robin, six, said: “The sheep rustling tends to happen from the middle to the end of July, when the lambs are about ready to take to market.
“It’s well organised, they are professional and know what they’re doing. It’s happening all the time now and it’s getting worse. It makes me really angry, it’s our livelihood.
“Rural crime has never been higher and agriculture can’t stand it any longer.”
The Heath family has run the farm for four generations. Chris works alongside dad Kenneth and mum Christine. They have around 1,400 ewes on 500 acres at Higher Sutton and 200 acres at Chelford. The sheep have electronic tags but Chris says thieves may cut these off before selling the animals. He says cutbacks in rural policing make farmers more vulnerable.
He said: “We used to have policemen who knew everyone and would come every few days, but now there’s no-one around to stop these incidents.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher to survive as farmers, our bottom lines are getting less and we’re being squeezed by the supermarkets, we don’t need this.
“We need people’s help in tackling these crimes. We ask people to keep an eye out and report it if they see someone acting suspiciously.”
The 11 Shearling ewes were stolen between around 4.30pm on Sunday, July 27, and around 10.30am on Wednesday, July 30. Police say they are investigating the thefts.
Macclesfield NPU Inspector Steve Griffiths said: “We take rural crime very seriously and we recognise the impact that incidents such as theft can have on members of the farming community.”
He said that police had established a Rural Watch scheme and hold rural meetings. He added there is also a rural beat officer who is dedicated to looking out for our rural communities and that a twoway communication tool called Cheshire Police Alert had been launched enabling police to warn members of the public about crime in their local area. Contact police on 101 with information.
●● Chris Heath