The risk of farm vehicle thefts increases significantly over winter, with the long, dark evenings making it easier for criminals to operate in isolated rural areas.

“Too many farmers assume their vehicles are safe on their land, but sadly this is not the case,” says Arthur Denton, Cornish Mutual’s chartered legal executive and claims team leader.

“We usually see an increase in claims for stolen vehicles during the winter months. It’s a time when vehicles are more likely to be left unused with farmers on their land less often than during the spring and summer. One year we saw a spate of Land Rover and quad bikes thefts, most likely stolen to order.”

Agricultural vehicle thefts are usually well planned, with criminals staking out isolated locations and operating late into the night. Vehicles are often transported in containers and many are taken out of the UK and sold overseas.

Arthur adds: “These are not opportunistic crimes and are generally carried out by experienced criminal gangs, targeting high-value agricultural vehicles in remote locations.

"They are attracted to vehicles within easy reach of a road some distance from the farmer’s home. Quad bikes, trailers and even tractors can be transported hundreds of miles very quickly. We’ve had a number of cases of vehicles being picked up by police on border crossings in mainland Europe.”

Tom Balchin, of the Dorset Police Rural Crime Team agrees: “The theft of ATVs and tractors is very much an organised crime, with perpetrators often leaving no trace of the theft. In many cases, it is only when a farmer goes to use the vehicle, they discover it has been stolen.”

While the risk of vehicle thefts can’t be eliminated, many of the insurance claims made could have been prevented by following a few simple steps. First and foremost, not keeping the keys in or near the vehicle.

Tom also offers this advice. “Keep farm vehicles not being used over winter in a locked building, ideally covering the windows to ensure vehicles stay hidden from view,” he says.

“You could also physically secure your machine to the floor, using suitable locking devices and fixed ground anchors.

Using a grip lock that locks the brakes also makes it more difficult for a vehicle to be moved. Consider fitting immobilisers, VHF, GPS tracking devices and fuel and battery isolators.

“We strongly advise registering your vehicle with a security marking scheme such as Datatag or CESAR. Since CESAR was established in 2007, it has contributed to a 60 per cent decline in these types of thefts. We also recommend recording machinery serial numbers – ideally taking a photograph for reference. Having an image of a stolen trailer or box greatly increases the prospect of it being recovered.

“Installing security lighting and CCTV with sensors and PIR Alarms on the perimeter of the building or premises also enhances the security of your land.”

Rural crime teams across the south west continue to encourage farmers and other members of the community to look out for one another and report any suspicious activity.

Chris Collins of Devon and Cornwall Police Rural Affairs team says: “Remain vigilant for suspicious activity and report incidents to the police by calling 999 in an emergency or by emailing Information can also be passed anonymously to the independent charity by calling 0800 555 111 or visiting

“We recommend farmers, rural businesses and members of the community set up or join a local alert scheme and social media watch groups. This collaboration creates eyes and ears in rural locations and allows communities to support one another.”

Join your county’s Farm Watch scheme by signing up online:

• Devon and Cornwall Alert:

• Dorset Alert:

• Somerset: