Livestocking rearing along the South Tyrone border is fast becoming a risky business, with farmers reporting on average two incidents of cattle rustling a day.
So rampant is the problem, that a total of 3,251 cattle have been stolen in Tyrone and Fermanagh since 2013, costing local farmers millions of pounds in lost revenue.
The figures were released this week by the Department of Education after a request by DUP peer Maurice Morrow.
During the 2013 calendar year a total of 666 reports were received amounting to 1431 stolen cattle, 29 of which were subsequently reported as recovered.
During 2014 a total of 657 reports were received amounting to 1209 stolen cattle. 24 cattle were subsequently reported as recovered.
So far in 2015 a total of 303 reports have been received by DARD amounting to 611 stolen cattle by 22nd October 2015. 4 cattle have been reported as recovered.
Lord Morrow said the level of cattle thefts is shocking and the recovery over the same time frame of just 1.7% is appallingly low.
“I expected high figures when I asked this question but not the totals which have been supplied.
“I note DARD have no way of finding out of the details of theft investigations and I would therefore call on more active engagement from the PSNI. It is vital the community are made fully aware of these crimes and their outcomes. It could go a significant way to enhance detection, awareness and determent.
“I am however concerned there is no such reporting mechanism for sheep thefts as exists for cattle. These farmers have been badly targeted too and the lack of a departmental reporting mechanism could be seen as an enticement for sheep thieves as there is less made public of such activity.
“Overall I repeat my previous concerns that there needs to be enhanced co-operation between police forces and processing plants. There is no way these animals are simply evaporating into thin air. They are being targeted by experienced thieves.
“There has been a sizable lack of prosecutorial action also and therefore the deterrent factor in absent. All persons who handle stolen livestock, including the thief, the transporter, and the processor need to be prosecuted and much more stringent monitoring of movement instigated urgently.
A spokesperson for the department said: “DARD’s Veterinary Service Central Enforcement Team assist the PSNI in the investigation of such cases and share intelligence with them but we do not have access to any police records concerning their investigations nor the outcome of these.”
Police in the South Tyrone are have launched a Farmwatch scheme which includes the ‘freeze branding’ of cattle.