Persistent rural thieves are targeting quad bikes used by farmers to tend to livestock during the lambing season, latest NFU Mutual claim figures reveal.

The rural insurer’s theft claims data for 2020 reveals that, while the number of quads stolen fell in 2020, thieves are increasingly targeting more expensive, higher specification models.

Farm thieves are also stealing more all-terrain (ATV), larger off-road vehicles.

These machines, which often seat two people side-by side and have a load space at the back, can cost two or three times as much as a quad bike.

According to NFU's data, the vehicles now represent 14% of all quad and ATV thefts, compared to 11% in 2019.

To help farmers protect their quads from increasingly sophisticated thieves, NFU Mutual has started providing updated security advice.

It is also launching a pilot scheme with manufacturers starting with Yamaha and Honda to provide customers with free tracking and immobilisation equipment on vehicles bought to replace stolen quads and ATVS, following on from a paid claim.

To help members who have been the victim of quad theft to get up and running again, NFU Mutual is covering the cost of the tracker and immobiliser installation and the first year’s subscription. The insurer is also looking to install trackers and immobilisers on other brands if they meet the required standard and fitting cost.

Bob Henderson, Technical Engineering Manager at NFU Mutual, said: "Quad bikes are a vital tool on modern livestock farms.

"During harsh, cold months and at lambing times farmers face a massive struggle to keep their sheep fed and safe if thieves strike and leave them without a quad at the busiest time of year.

"Rural thieves target quads and other farm all-terrain vehicles because they’re expensive kit with a ready resale market in this country and abroad.

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"However, their light weight makes them easier to steal than heavier equipment such as tractors.

"We know that thieves often return to a farm where they have stolen a quad in the hope of being able to steal its new replacement.

"That’s why we’re working on a scheme initially with manufacturers Honda and Yamaha with Datatool to install free tracking devices and immobilisers to protect our customers from repeat crime.

"We also want to help keep farmers - who often work alone - safe.

"The immobiliser systems have smart technology which can raise the alarm if a machine has been impacted or rolled over."

DC Chris Piggott, Agricultural Vehicle Lead at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service, said: "Unfortunately the police find that once criminals know the layout of a farm they may return to steal the replacement vehicle or other goods that they have scoped out previously."

To protect quads and other ATVs from thieves, NFU Mutual and the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service is issuing the following advice:

• Always remove keys and keep them stored securely, away from the vehicle

• When not in use, keep quads and all-terrain-vehicles locked up out of sight

• Install tracking devices and immobilisers to make it easier for police to recover stolen vehicles - most modern tracking devices are GPS enabled, with alarms/alerts that will send a message informing you if your machine is being tampered with. You can also set working hours and Geofences to alert you if a machine is being moved outside of a pre-set working area.

• Use CESAR marking to deter thieves and enable police to identify stolen machinery

• Target-harden your quad by creating a security cage or use a mechanical device such as steering brake/lock, ground anchor or wheel clamp when not in use - these devices are both visible and physical deterrents to thieves

• Know what you own – keep records of serial numbers and photographs of your kit including unique identifying features

• When buying a new quad insist on a chipped key and immobilisation system