FARMERS are being systematically targeted by savvy thieves.
Criminals are deliberately seeking out expensive farm machinery and livestock and stealing to order, according to one local farmer.
Figures just released by the country’s leading rural insurance company show that there has been a 12% rise in ‘agri-crime’ compared with the previous year.
NFU Mutual estimates that this is costing the North East region, which includes Yorkshire, some £9.2 million a year.
Rising machinery costs, harsh economic times and the difficulty in policing sparsely populated rural areas are all reasons which have been put forward for the surge in rural crime.
Top of the list for thieves in our area are farm machinery and tools, followed by tractors and quad bikes.
Many of the thefts take place under cover of darkness, with the criminals waiting for stormy nights before they strike. Some of the machinery stolen requires expert knowledge or specialist equipment to remove it.
One man who is counting the cost of being the victim of thieves is David Holdsworth, of Half Roods Farm, Meltham. His 150-acre traditional family farm supports dairy, beef and sheep.
Mr Holdsworth, 44, was asleep in the farmhouse when thieves stole his John Deere tractor with a mower conditioner (grass cutting) machine attached last month.
The stolen equipment was worth £40,000.
The fact that the tractor was locked up and parked very close to the farmhouse did not deter the brazen thieves, who damaged gate posts while making their getaway.
The crime took place on a moonless windy and rainy night. Mr Holdsworth believes that the criminals had been watching him and waited for the right conditions to make their move.
He said: “I am sure somebody has been watching and targeting me. I think they came over the top of the hill from Lancashire.
“The mower conditioner is not used for cutting your lawn, you’d use it to cut a 10-acre field. There are some people in the farming industry who are not honest, and professional thieves are being set on to steal.