Police officers in Newry and south Armagh have been given livestock training so they can become better equipped to deal with rural crime and advise farmers.

A spokeswoman said the action had been taken because thefts of livestock can not only hamper a farmer’s ability to do the job, but can cause significant upset, inconvenience and loss of income.

Over the last three years, more than 10,000 cattle have been reported stolen or lost in Northern Ireland; with the figures by far the highest in border areas.

'We need to understand what to look for'

Constable Nicki Martin said: "The PSNI has been working with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and other agencies to find ways to disrupt and hamper the work of would-be criminals.

"Giving officers the knowledge and skills to disrupt and deter criminals is one way of addressing this issue. We are eager to disrupt those who target farmers and others in the countryside.

“This course has been running for a number of years now, with officers and staff from across our organisation taking part.

“We are aware of the significant impact of livestock theft within the rural community and in our area.

Geographically we’re best placed to try and disrupt and deter this criminality; however, to do this officers need to understand the legislation, and know what to look out for when stopping and checking animal transporters or when in attendance on farm premises.

"We are also planning a high visibility joint operation between PSNI and DAERA to perform checks and hopefully further deter future animal thefts.

“There is no acceptable level of crime in the rural community or indeed elsewhere - and for the PSNI, one victim, is one victim too many.

"I hope this training will give officers the insight to understand and tackle this scourge on rural communities and the training will be made available to other officers in the coming months.”