SHEEP producers are being targeted by opportunistic thieves as wool and sheep meat prices hit historic highs in WA.
About five farmers in the Pingelly area have had sheep stolen or reported missing in recent years, with CBH Group director John Hassell being the latest of them.
Mr Hassell said he had reported to police that 175 head of Merino ewes and rams had been stolen from his property.
He said he’d “only just moved to the property about 12 months ago” and it wasn’t until he mentioned the theft to his neighbours that they said they had also experienced livestock theft.
He said the thieves most likely worked in a team, with a truck, to be able to round up that many sheep.
It was most likely that they had entered his property at night using the back roads where they would be less noticeable.
“I’m not happy about it,” Mr Hassell said.
“They are worth a lot of money.”
The value of the sheep was estimated at $30,000.
A police media spokesperson said “during a three-week period in January, a large number of full wool sheep were stolen from two separate paddocks”.
“It is believed the offenders took the sheep via farm gates located on gravel roads surrounding the farms,” the spokesperson said.
“These roads are not frequently used.
“Police are working closely with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and also various saleyards and agents in an effort to identify any stolen sheep that the offenders may be attempting to sell.”
The spokesperson said the incident appeared to be isolated - although it wasn’t the first time that it had happened in the region.
In November, 30 Merino lambs were also reported stolen from the Pingelly area.
Police have since been randomly checking horse floats and trucks in an effort to find the perpetrators or prevent other incidents occurring.
While the police were still investigating the theft of Mr Hassell’s sheep they said they had little to go on - as there had been a lack of common trends in livestock thefts in the State and they didn’t have any solid leads as yet.
Police have asked the rural community to be vigilant in monitoring vehicles coming and going from their areas, and report any suspicious behaviour particularly if the vehicles were horse floats, trucks, or able to carry livestock undetected.
Mr Hassell said the sheep were ear tagged as required but that didn’t stop people from stealing them to shear them or sell them for a profit.
He will bring up the issue of ear tags and monitoring livestock ownership changes at the WAFarmers livestock council meeting next week, in the hope that the industry could improve the system in place.
“We need to improve the system,” he said.
“We can’t depend on government - industry should be self regulating in this area.”
Mr Hassell said with the livestock identification and tracking system in place it shouldn’t be too hard to monitor who owns what sheep and who purchases them.
“But no-one is really monitoring that,” Mr Hassell said.