A FARM manager is calling on the police to be more proactive in deterring livestock theft after sheep rustlers stole 45 animals from the Lake District holding he runs.

Forty-five Cheviot ewes belonging to Brian Scowcroft, who runs High House Farm, Winster, near Windermere, were stolen from a field at nearby Fox Hole Bank between September 16 and 20. The sheep all have a distinctive orange mark on their shoulders.

Nathan Allen, 22, who has been manager at the farm for two years, said police should do more stop and check operations and start to question people who are moving livestock.

“They need to start asking people moving livestock about where they have come from and whether they know the holding number of the animals they are transporting,” said Mr Allen. “That is a simple check which will immediately determine whether the animals they are moving belong to them.”

Mr Allen said there had been 244 sheep in the field but when they were gathered in there were only 199. He conducted a six hour search in a bid to find the missing sheep, checked surrounding fields and consulted with neighbours.

“It’s easy money for someone,” said Mr Allen, who says there has been an increase in sheep rustling lately. “The only thing they have got to do is to get a good dog and go somewhere quiet. If someone is passing they think it is a farmer with his Land Rover and trailer.

“Then they only have to cut out the ear tags and clip the marking off and put their own marking on. People are doing it because sheep are now valued between £120 and £150.”

Last month, it was reported that a rural crime report by farm insurer NFU Mutual concluded that there had been an “unprecedented” increase in livestock theft across the country with Cumbria being consistently targeted. Two Lakeland farms reported more than 160 sheep stolen, with one of the victims being Pip Simpson, who lost 100 of his flock from his Troutbeck holding.