A FARMER has spoken of her distress after finding that eight of her rare breed lambs have been stolen.

Ellie Stokeld, who keeps her 300-strong flock in fields at Nunthorpe, said her flock is kept purely for their fleeces and she never sends her sheep to slaughter.

Mrs Stokeld said: "We have just discovered the theft of eight lambs, which is quite devastating for us.

"The fact that we are a slaughter-free flock should tell you how we feel about this, as they will probably have been sold for meat or just slaughtered by the moronic criminals who have done this.

"There are less than 1,500 ewes left in this country and the numbers are going down every year.

"We first realised something was amiss when we returned from a trip away last week and saw tyre tracks in one of our fields.

"But then we started moving the sheep to their winter home, near Thirsk, and I discovered we had four lambs missing on the first trip, and when we came to make another trip, their were another four lambs missing.

"It is very upsetting because they have wonderful characters and they are our babies. We have reported it to the police.

"The sheep are very easy to recognise. If anyone has stolen them to sell them on we may be able to find them.

"They are tattooed in each ear – BLA45 in there ear on the left of the sheep facing you, and Sxx in the other ear."

Mrs Stokeld, who has written books about her experiences with the sheep and their yarn, said: "We have shown, bred high quality sheep which have been exported into the EU to form starter flocks.

"For the last five years we have produced the most wonderful yarns from our slaughter-free flock which sell, either via our online shop or via woollen festivals, all over the world.

Mrs Stokeld said she started her Doulton Border Leicester flock in 1996 when she bought two ewe lambs, Martha and Minnie.

She added: "The flock grew quite quickly with purchases from dispersal sales and ewe lambs and ewes from the Scottish sales.

"The Border Leicester is now on the Rare Breed Survival Trust 'At Risk' list because the numbers of breeding ewes have fallen in latter years. We are doing our best to promote the breed."