A farmer from Roundwood, Dunlavin, Co Wicklow, suspects thieves of stealing 44 in-lamb ewes from his farm during the first week of January.

“I had a sheep inspection coming up and brought in the ewes to the yard. I noticed when I had them all in that there was a large number missing,” Owen Brady told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“After counting, I realised 44 of my in-lamb Cheviot ewes were gone. They were due to lamb around St Patrick’s Day.

“In total I estimate that the ewes are worth up to €10,000.”

Decimated flock

Brady said that January’s theft was the first to have ever taken place on his farm.

“There’s only one entry into my farm and the lane is a mile long. You would need to know the area to have pulled this off, which makes it even more sickening.

“No stranger done this. I suspect whoever has stolen the ewes has shorn them already in an effort to make them unrecognisable.”

Greater co-operation

Meanwhile, ICSA sheep chair Sean McNamara has called for greater co-operation between authorities north and south of the border to combat the rising number of sheep thefts.

McNamara said: “A recent incident involving an ICSA member from Wicklow saw 44 in-lamb ewes taken in one nighttime raid. These were not factory-fit animals, so would have needed to be moved to another holding.

“They were valuable Cheviot mountain ewes and the farmer involved has been left with his flock decimated and dealing with the serious financial repercussions.”

Sophisticated gangs

The ICSA said there is the potential that the situation could deteriorate even further over the coming months as farmers put dry hoggets out to the hills.

Mr McNamara continued: “Farmers are taking as many precautions as they can, with many grazing their sheep as far away from roads as possible and making gates more secure. Others are using distinctive markings or unique nips in ears.

“However, these measures often do little to deter would-be local thieves, let alone sophisticated gangs moving stolen sheep longer distances.

“Unfortunately, sheep tags are no match for those prepared to break the law, so other solutions will need to be found.”

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