NORTH WALES farms are increasingly using CCTV surveillance for “peace of mind” amid a rise in rural crime and large-scale sheep thefts.

Livestock rustling is becoming big business for organised criminals with sheep thefts being carried out in ever greater numbers, according to rural insurer NFU Mutual.

In January, 143 sheep were snatched from fields in near Wrexham while, in April, 63 Texel cross-in lambs were stolen from a farm in Tremeirchion, near St Asaph.

North Wales Police's Rural Crime Team investigated the Denbighshire incident but yielded no results. It said the crime had a “devastating” effect on the farmer.

NFU Mutual believes large-scale thefts are usually carried out by organised gangs who put their livestock hauls into the food chain, while others may be buying and selling sheep at auctions.

Tim Price, rural affairs specialist for NFU Mutual, said he is becoming increasingly alarmed by the scale of the thefts. “A generation ago, rustling was typically a local crime involving a couple of lambs or half a dozen geese,” he said. “Now it’s an organised crime with dozens or even hundreds of sheep worth thousands of pounds taken in a single raid.

“Thieves are even using working sheepdogs – some of which have also been stolen – to round up hundreds of sheep which are then loaded into trailers or lorries late at night.”

Shropshire CCTV firm O.R.P Surveillance, which specialises in farm security, has seen a jump in demand over the past 18 months. As well as alarms, wireless cameras and intercoms at farm entrances, anxious farmers are installing automatic number plate recognition systems.

O.R.P Surveillance director Jennifor Marlow said it has even assisted farmers in the vegetable sector. She said: “We design surveillance systems to suit every farming sector, including poultry production, beef and sheep and vegetables. It gives famers peace of mind.”

For more information, visit O.R.P Surveillance's website.