Rustling advice issued after 200 sheep stolen in Wiltshire over just 3 months

Farmers in the south-west have been advised to protect their flocks after almost 200 sheep were reported stolen in Wiltshire over the last three months.

Rural campaigning group the Countryside Alliance has warned farmers sheep that organised gangs are now behind many incidents with thousands of pounds worth of sheep sometimes being stolen in just one raid.

It comes as police have described those behind the latest rustling incidents as “skilled handlers with dogs”.

Also Read: Wilts Police appeals for info following 3 separate sheep thefts
Insurers have reported that rustling is the third most costly crime for the UK’s farming sector. However, disappointingly, less than 1% (0.75%) of sheep rustling incidents end with a conviction.

Mo Metcalf Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said: “We are very disturbed by the recent spate of sheep thefts in Wiltshire.

“We urge the public to report suspicious activity, that is if they suspect a theft to be taking place, to the police immediately.

Rustling has a larger effect than the immediate cost of the crime – losing sheep which have been bred over multiple generations has a long-lasting financial and emotional impact.

The Alliance is calling for increased police presence in rural areas as well as calls for partnerships between police, communities and other authorities.

It advises those living in Wiltshire to report any suspicious activity by calling 999 if a crime is taking place or 101 for anything else.

Information can also be passed on anonymously through Crimestoppers on: 0800-555-111. Flock keepers are warned not to approach the suspected thieves.


In a bid to prevent incidents, the Alliance points to the importance of using TecTRACER paint to make sure that animals can be traced back to their owner if they are stolen.

The organisation also advises installing CCTV, as well as security lighting in yards and drives and setting up geo-fence alerts.

It also recommends flock keepers regularly count their sheep. The sooner the theft is recognised, the higher the chance of getting the animals back before they are illegally slaughtered.

Internal trackers such as mineral boluses, which don’t pass through the sheep, can also prove useful in identifying stolen sheep.

However, with this method, time is key, as rustlers may remove them upon slaughter. Notifying the police quickly will give owners the best chance of return.

The group also advises that grazing sheep away from the road, if possible, is helpful in prevention.