A farmer's capital is spread over many acres in the form of stock and equipment, much of which is portable and so is easy to steal. The ease of access to most farms makes total security impossible - but there's lots you can do to reduce the risks. And it doesn't all involve extra expense.

Farmwatch schemes encourage everyone in the farming community to report anything suspicious to the police. It also encourages them to pool their knowledge - people who live in the farming community have a very specialised knowledge which even the police may find it hard to achieve.

The main aims of Farmwatch are to:

  • Reduce opportunities for crime and vandalism

  • Strengthen community spirit so that everyone can play a part in protecting their property

  • Improve two-way communication between farmers and the police

  • Reduce fear of crime

LIVESTOCK

Grazing animals are an easy target for the thief. Regularly check the fields where animals are grazing - daily if possible. Keep your hedges, fences and gates in good repair. Ditches form a natural barrier. Field gate hinges should have capping hinges so they cannot be removed so easily. Cattle grids should be removable and locked out of position when not in use. Use locking posts to obstruct large openings to yards etc.

Consider using closed circuit TV so you can watch animals in barns or yards from the comfort of your home. This can be especially useful during busy times like the lambing season.

If livestock is stolen it is important that you can give the police an accurate description. Eartags and horn brands help the police identify stock. Freeze branding, hot branding or tattooing your postcode will also help. Take photographs of particularly valuable animals.

MACHINERY AND TOOLS

Try to secure or immobilise vehicles or equipment when not in use.. If it is possible, remove machinery from fields, especially near roads.

Identify your property by

  • Keeping a record of the serial number, chassis and model numbers of machines.

  • Painting your name on valuable tarpaulins in letters at least one foot high.

  • Using metal engravers to mark tools, vehicles and equipment with your postcode followed by the first two letters of your farm's name.

Always keep tools and small pieces of machinery locked away. Do NOT leave them lying around.

FARM BUILDINGS

Store valuable equipment and tools - chainsaws, welding and cutting equipment, vehicle spares and riding tack - in a secure building behind a strong locked door. Or, build a metal storage cage inside a building and keep it locked. Use British Standard locks, good quality locking bars and high security padlocks. Windows can be protected with metals bars. Lock outbuildings when you are not using them.

Thieves don't like well-lit areas so fit outside security lights that are controlled by an automatic time-switch or infra-red beams that react to heat or movement. Consider fitting an intruder alarm or closed circuit TV to alert you to anything suspicious.

FARMHOUSE

Farmhouses attract burglars because they are often large and in isolated places. Fit British Standard deadlocks to all outside doors, reinforced with strong bolts, which are preferably key-operated. Fit window locks on ground floor windows and those near flat roofs and drain pipes. The main door should have a security chain and wide-angle door viewer, so that you can see who is on the outer side of the door.

A burglar alarm is useful but is often the last line of defence. Keep shotguns and firearms in a securely locked place and store ammunition separately.

Don't advertise you're not at home by leaving notes for traders, or garage doors open. When your house is empty, ask a neighbour or your local Farmwatch to keep an eye on your farm.

INSURANCE PAYS

It's very important to have adequate insurance cover. It pays to have cover against theft of vehicles, equipment and livestock etc., as well as your home and other buildings.

The free handbook "Be Safe, Be Secure, Your Practical Guide to Crime Reduction contains tips on how to prevent crime. To get a copy, call 08702414680 or email [email protected]