FARMERS and their neighbours have been urged to pull together to beat rural crime.

Figures uncovered by Freedom of Information requests to all UK police forces highlight a startling 129 per cent rise in livestock thefts in a six month period to March 2014, as rustlers cash in on the black market meat trade.

Now, following the latest reported theft of 136 Suffolk cross lambs from a farm at Witton Gilbert, County Durham, the Country Land and Business Association’s (CLA’s) North region, is urging farmers to actively involve their neighbours in helping to prevent such crime.

Douglas Chalmers, CLA North director of policy & public affairs, said: “People who live in the countryside are usually very good at raising the alarm if something untoward happens, such as cattle escaping, but it is hard to know sometimes if a person working in a field should be there or not.

“That’s why we are encouraging farmers and their non-farming neighbours to really get to know each other, and share details of the farm’s working patterns, so that it will be easy to spot any suspect activity.”

The CLA says providing neighbours with details of the type and colour of vehicles used by farm workers, or informing them of intended animal movements, are examples of simple steps that farmers can take to set up effective protection for their stock.

“A well-informed neighbour will easily spot when a stranger is in the field and can act appropriately,”

said Mr Chalmers.

“Most people would be more than willing to help, and these few minutes of communication could go a long way to help prevent a stressful and expensive criminal activity.”