MORE than 20 sheep and lambs have been stolen from fields near Denbigh.

Fears about organised criminals targeting farms have been renewed after 11 Texel cross mules or Welsh sheep and 15 lambs were taken from a farm in Bylchau.

North Wales Police’s rural crime unit said that the theft was carried out at any time between May 6 and late afternoon on May 8.

A spokesperson for the unit said on Twitter: “11 sheep (Texel cross mules or Welsh) and 15 lambs similar to the ones in the attached photo have been stolen from the Bylchau area, Denbigh between May 6 and 4pm on May 8."

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

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

NFU Mutual said that 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.

Farmers are increasingly reliant on CCTV to protect their properties. Jennifor Marlow, director of O.R.P Surveillance, said the Shropshire firm has even assisted farmers in the vegetable sector. “We design surveillance systems to suit every farming sector, including poultry production, beef and sheep and vegetables," she said. "It gives famers peace of mind.”

Anyone with information about the thefts should call police on 101.