FARMING Sheep-rustling costs pounds 1m a year

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Farmers in the West Country are continuing to count the cost of sheep-rustling, with more than pounds 1m of livestock lost to organised gangs of thieves, new figures are expected to show.

An estimated 10,000 animals were stolen across the region in 1995, according to the agricultural insurers NFU Mutual, and figures for 1996, due to be released at the Royal Show in Warwickshire this weekend, are expected to confirm that around another 10,000 sheep were rustled in the region.

Sheep are the prime target for livestock rustlers nationally, with around 72,000 animals going missing each year. Together with the West Country, the North Yorkshire Moors and Wales are the worst-affected areas.

"These people know what they are doing, and the crimes are planned in advance," said an NFU Mutual spokesman.