THE Farmers' Union of Wales today reminded members to be vigilant after a spate of sheep thefts in the Swansea area.
According to the West Glamorgan Commoners' Association, seven of its members have lost 350 sheep in the Swansea, Amman and Lliw Valleys over the past 18 months with losses amounting to around £30,000
FUW member Howell Davies, a third generation farmer of Perthygwynion Farm, Pontardawe, Swansea, has suffered a series of sheep thefts over the past year.
"Unfortunately, livestock theft seems to have increased substantially in recent years and in August last year I had 62 ewes stolen from my flock," said Mr Davies.
"It is believed that the rising price of sheep meat and the impact of the recession are largely to blame for the increase.
"Of course, it is not just farm income that suffers from these thefts, as there can also be a loss of valuable breeding lines which are very difficult, if not impossible, to replace." added Mr Davies.
FUW livestock, wool and marts committee chairman Dafydd Roberts said the union was one of the organisations involved in the establishment of the 2011 Farm Watch scheme which aims to improve communications between farmers and the police in order to reduce the opportunities for farm-related crime.
"The FUW would, therefore, urge members concerned about the rise in sheep thefts to become involved in their local Farm Watch scheme and report any suspicious activities or suspicious loading to the police. This is especially important if such activities are being conducted at night.
"The union would also stress that buyers of sheep or sheep meat should check the corresponding ownership records and livestock identification to ensure that the animals being purchased are not stolen," added Mr Roberts who farms on Anglesey where there has been an increase in thefts of metal and wooden gates over the last couple of weeks.
Local police believe two metal farm gates were stolen by thieves just looking for an opportunity to sell them on as scrap metal or to an unsuspecting third party.
South Wales Police met with the Commoners' Association in November 2012 and, following this meeting, an initiative designed to combat the rise in sheep thefts is set to be launched this Spring.
Police will be conducting spot checks on vehicles carrying livestock and will continue to stop vehicles towing stock boxes late at night in remote areas.