Concern over livestock theft

Concern over livestock theft

Agribusiness
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POLICE have stepped up monitoring for suspicious vehicles in the South West and farmers are installing cameras on entry points after another livestock theft was reported in Gnowangerup last week.

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Gnowangerup Merino stud breeder Collyn Garnett

Gnowangerup Merino stud breeder Collyn Garnett

POLICE have stepped up monitoring for suspicious vehicles in the South West and farmers are installing cameras on entry points after another livestock theft was reported in Gnowangerup last week.

Merino stud breeder Collyn Garnett said he would be installing cameras to monitor for vehicles entering his property after he found 100 pregnant ewes were missing.

Mr Garnett said he was taken by surprise when he put his flock through for shearing and realised the numbers were short.

“Last week we had shorn our sheep and we noticed some weren’t there,” Mr Garnett said.

“A fortnight previous we had an accurate pregnancy test scan, and we also did a count at joining time.

“On all three counts they were there.

“We have been double checking the information for insurance purposes.

“We haven’t always insured our livestock but I’m glad we did this year.”

Mr Garnett said it was hard to put an accurate dollar figure on the losses, but taking into account the price of wool, the value of the lambs and ewes at the moment, it would be up around $500 per head – or $50,000 in total.

He said the thieves had entered the property via a private laneway where they had access to the sheep – which were in the middle of his farm.

“They were right in the centre of the property at the time,” Mr Garnett said.

“They might have been walked out to a secluded spot to be loaded up.”

Mr Garnett said there was always someone on the property and they kept an eye out for suspicious vehicles, which they had seen previously but were unable to catch.

He said the thieves had been “fairly crafty” and possibly involved multiple people and vehicles.

“Police are doing regular checks and we are doing regular checks – as well as trying to shoot foxes at the same time,” he said.

“We reckon they could get $5000 for the wool and about $14,000 for their carcasses as they were large framed and in good condition.”

The ewes were part of his Willemenup Poll Merino stud – one of three studs on the property.

The Garnetts have 4000 head of sheep, including a commercial flock.

Their breeds include Merino, Poll Merino, Poll Dorset, White Suffolk and Border Leicester.

The Garnett’s losses came after neighbour Kevin Wise experienced his own losses of 80 wether lambs, which had been stolen in two lots – 30 head in October and 50 in January.

Mr Wise said the impact had been not just in the financial losses of potential sales, but also in the cost incurred by running the sheep.

“It’s been a big loss,” Mr Wise said.

“We had a mob of 740 – and that’s dropped by 80 head – with a straight-up potential income loss of about $170 per head.

“But we invest a fair bit to produce the sheep.

“There’s the animal husbandry costs of vaccines and drenches.

“The loss of inputs you will never get back.”

Mr Wise said he “had no recovery” because never thought about insurance for the theft of stock – although they were covered for fire or weather events or accidents.

He has also been the target of “bizarre” losses where thieves have shot about 11 animals in the paddock and butchered them onsite, a few at a time and on multiple occasions, leaving the wool and skeleton behind.

“We heard the shooting around the time we lost them but we thought it was just the neighbours,” he said.

“After it happened the third time we picked up on it when we were feeding the sheep and found the remains.”

Mr Wise said he had also lost nine sheep due to being mauled by dogs, and it was hard to know if they were wild dog attacks or from dogs used by the thieves to round up the sheep.

Another neighbour in the area lost a mixed 325 head of ewe and ram lambs last October, which was a “significant loss to his program”, Mr Wise said.

About five farmers in the Pingelly area have also had sheep stolen or gone missing in recent years.

High-profile farmer John Hassell was the latest to be targeted, reporting 175 Merino ewes and rams had been stolen from his property about a month ago – estimated at $30,000.

In November, 2017, 30 Merino lambs worth $7000 were also reported stolen from Bendering.

Police have asked the rural community to be vigilant in monitoring vehicles coming and going from their areas - and report any suspicious behaviour.

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