Hundreds of sheep are thought to have been stolen from a farm in south Co. Down.

The sheep went missing from the Ballyward area more than two weeks ago, but have not yet appeared.

Police are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

Inspector Leslie Badger – of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) – said that at this stage, it is thought that several hundred sheep were taken from the Splitbog Road.

He said: “The incident was reported to police on November 6, but it is thought the theft may have happened sometime within the previous week.

“If you can help us with our enquiries please call the 101 number, quoting reference number 303 of 6/11/17.

“Alternatively information about crime can be passed via the independent Crimestoppers charity on: 0800 555 111.”

DNA testing

The news comes just days after Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Robin Swann said he was “sick of hearing reports of quality cattle being lifted, often under the cover of darkness”.

His office uncovered figures which showed more than 10,000 cattle had been reported as missing across Northern Ireland over the last three years.

Swann said he believed cross-border smuggling was responsible for many of the disappearances since the majority of incidents occurred along the border regions.

He said: “At the minute it’s only a case of removing an ear tag, so perhaps voluntary DNA testing and recording should be available and encouraged along border areas – just so that meat can always be traced back to its actual point of origin.”