A RURAL insurer has agreed to fund a new officer in a bid to tackle livestock theft.

Martin Beck, who has 30 years of policing experience, will join the National Rural Crime Unit - thanks to NFU Mutual. 

His job will be to gather livestock theft-related intelligence across the UK, spot and share trends, and work with local police forces to help secure convictions against criminals. 

Superintendent Andrew Huddleston, who heads up the National Rural Crime Unit, said: “The impact of livestock theft must not be under estimated, it is a crime that is more than just the stealing of a commodity. These animals are the livelihood of many farmers and often the result of several generations of dedicated animal husbandry.

“I am delighted that NFU Mutual has committed to a three-year package to help us support police forces investigate livestock theft across the UK.

“Martin Beck, who has an outstanding history in this specialist field of work, will join the National Rural Crime Unit in February and I would encourage anyone with information about livestock thefts to contact our team.”

According to the latest figures from NFU Mutual, the livestock theft in the UK cost £2.7million in 2022. 

To deter thieves, NFU Mutual has provided some top tips: 

  • Ensure stock is clearly marked and records are up to date 
  • When possible, graze livestock in fields away from roads or consider housing them inside
  • Check stock regularly - and vary times of feeding/check ups 
  • Consider a high-tech marking system
  • Join a Farm or Rural Watch scheme to share information about rural crime in your area 
  • Ask neighbours to report any suspicious sightings to the police
  • Dial 999 immediately if an incident is taking place - do not approach criminals 

Matthew Screech, NFU Mutual’s lead on livestock theft, added: “Livestock theft is one of the costliest crimes to farming, with claims often involving over 50 sheep taken in a single raid.

“These thefts can have a devastating impact on farming businesses, as well as causing huge worry to farmers about the welfare of the stolen stock.

“We are proud to be the sole funder of the new livestock theft officer role at the National Rural Crime Unit and look forward to working with them closely to identify criminal activity and ensure dedicated police resources are targeted in areas needed most to protect farmers and their livestock.”