What are biggest threats to farm security?

Farm Security


With the continued surge in rural crime hitting an eight year high in the UK, now is a good time to rethink the farm security measures that are put in place to protect property, assets and people.  A good place to start is to understand the true extent of rural crime and where the threats are coming from.

Our rural and agricultural communities are incredibly important to all of us, especially now as it produces 64% of the food we eat . The agricultural sector, mainly made up of sole traders and family partnerships is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food & drink, which contributes over £120 billion to our economy.

The agricultural sector employs 476,000 people and there are over 149,000 farm businesses across the UK. According to Countryside 65% of those run other enterprises too such as farm shops and B&Bs generating a further £740 million to our economy.

With 72% of land in the UK currently being used by farmers to produce our food – it is a BIG target, and one that is clearly in the cross-hairs of unscrupulous criminal gangs, opportunists and vandals.

The cost of rural crime

Latest figures from NFU Mutual reveals that between 2018 – 2020 rural crime has cost a staggering £147.6 million in the UK. Let’s look at these eye watering figures in more detail:

Cost of rural crime in 2018 

The Guardian reported that according to NFU Mutual, rural crime in 2018 cost £50 million – up 12% on the previous year.  The insurer said farmers and country people were having to deal with “repeated thefts by gangs who take advantage of farms’ isolated locations to steal machinery, raid tool stores and even butcher sheep in the fields”.

Tim Price, a rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual said,

” The last time rural theft reached such levels was in 2011 when international gangs took advantage of a largely unsecured countryside”

Fast forward a year and we see a further rise in rural crime impacting on farm security…

Cost of rural crime in 2019 

NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2020reveals that rural crime in the UK costs £54.3 million in 2019. This is an increase of nearly 9% on the previous year, making it the highest cost recorded in eight years. 

Cost of rural crime in 2020 

Figured from the recently published NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2021 reveal that rural theft cost the UK an estimated £43.3m in 2020. Although this showed an overall drop of 20% on the previous year, the report says:

“Highly-organised criminals continued to plague farmyards over the pandemic, stealing high-value farming Global Positioning Systems, quad bikes and ATVs as the cost of agricultural vehicle theft reported to NFU Mutual remained at over £9m.

Behind every crime there is an impact on farmers and their families – farms are places of work and people’s homes.”

… And what about unreported rural crime too?

According to their Rural Crime Survey 2020, Countryside Alliance reported that 38% people had a crime committed against them in the last 12 months. In addition, 24% of those crimes were not reported to police, which shows that the true cost of farm security breaches is even greater.

Interestingly, 46% of those people that had not reported crimes that happened thought police could not have done anything. This highlight the need for a shift in mindset, from a retrospective approach to farm security, to a more proactive one and it is encouraging to see that farm security measures are being taken more seriously…

The importance of improving farm security

48% of people have installed crime prevention measures in the last 12 months due to an increased fear of crime (66%) and being a victim of crime (33%). These measures included security lighting (72%) and CCTV, video or infra-red (58%).

Farms and agricultural business are not always easy to secure, with rural locations, poor internet connectivity issues, as well as the sheer size of sites that need to be protected often becoming stumbling blocks. However, just as technology has revolutionised modern farming techniques and outputs, so too have modern security equipment and remote monitoring technologies evolved.

cctv audio warnings

As a leading remote security monitoring station, we monitor farm and rural premises across the country providing a proactive, peace of mind, monitored security solutions so farmers and business owners can get on with what they do whilst we ensure their businesses are safe. This means that we work with a network of security installers and cutting technology providers to ensure that the equipment installed can be monitored efficiently and effectively to reduce the impact of crime 24/7 365.

out of hours call handlingLet Farsight help improve your Farm Security with remote monitoring email us here

What are the main threats to farm security?

Each and every farm is different and its’ levels of farm security may be differ, so let’s look at some of the main threats in a little more detail…

1. Agricultural Vehicle Theft

agricultural vehicle thefts


According to the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2020, agricultural vehicle theft increased in 2019 by 26% on the previous year. The cost agricultural vehicle theft was £9.3 million.

Thieves are increasingly cloning the identity of tractors and agricultural vehicles to make detection more difficult.

In recent years, a farm machinery shortage has driven international demand for farm machinery such as tractors with seen overseas buyers and exporters sourcing them from the UK. But they’re not the only ones, criminal gangs too are sourcing their plunder from the UK countryside.

The Courier outlined how NFU Mutual works closely with the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NaVCIS), the Plant & Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU) and the police to trace stolen tractors, which have been found in the UK, Europe and as far afield as Africa and the Far East.

Tractors stolen from across the UK are being used by organised criminal networks as international currency following tougher money laundering legislation.

Now is a good time to reconsider whether your farm security measures can be improved to protect your machinery, which is vital to the continuity of farming and productivity.

2. Quad / AVT Theft

Quad Bike Theft


Quads and ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) have no registration plates and are easy to transport, making them an easy target. In fact, thefts of these cost insurers a whopping £3.1 million in 2020 according to the leading agricultural insurer – NFU Mutual.

The Guardian describes these thefts as an epidemic with estimates that over a 15-month period about 35 quad bikes have been stolen from farms in a 20-mile stretch from Pershore through to Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire. They are not not wrong, quad thefts are an issue all over the UK.

In Yorkshire for example, following a suatained spate of thefts from rural areas, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Pannone is quoted in the Yorkshire Post as saying,

“The Covid-19 pandemic has not stopped thieves travelling into North Yorkshire from other areas and stealing expensive equipment belonging to farmers such as quad bikes.”

> To speak to Farsight about how remote CCTV and alarm monitoring can help you protect your farm vehicles, simply call 0845 0371 0101 or drop us a line here


3. Livestock Theft

Livestock theft


As one of the most costly threats to farm security, livestock thefts impact farmers and businesses both financially and emotionally. In fact,  Neighbourhood Watch put this as the third most costly crime for the UK’s farming sector according to insurers.

During single raid, a total of 220 sheep were stolen in 2019. According to NFU Mutual livestock theft cost £3 million with stock beng stolen for slaughter and illegally entering the food chain.

Setting up CCTV surveillance on your property can act as a deterrent as well providing visual proof that can improve conviction rates. Currently less than 1% of sheep rustling incidents result in a conviction.  Modern CCTV cameras can be installed to suit these outdoor  environments being wireless and battery powered or even solar powered.

Of course, CCTV surveillance that is monitored by professionals gives the advantage of the ability to respond to incidents proactively 24/7 365  enabling quick deterrence with audio warnings and visual verification can re-enforce police response call-outs in real time.

4. Land Rover Defender Theft

Land rover defender theft


Sporting Shooter magazine reported that according to NFU Mutual “Land Rover Defenders continue to be a target for thieves and every week farmers and enthusiast owners are waking up to find their precious Land Rovers gone – or stripped of bonnets, doors and wings.”

Defender thefts have risen sharply again and we are heading back up towards pre-COVID levels with the cost of claims rising to £2.1 million 2019. At least four Defender thefts were reported in January alone as criminal gangs scour the countryside for these iconic vehicles to feed the growing black market with both cars and car parts – see just how many cars were stolen in 2020 – it will shock – click here.

NFU Mutual, which has insured thousands of Land Rover Defenders from the days when the first Series I models appeared in the nation’s fields, is advising owners to use a combination of physical security and sophisticated electronic measures to protect their precious vehicles.

> To speak to Farsight about how remote CCTV and alarm monitoring can help you protect your farm vehicles, simply call 0845 0371 0101 or drop us a line here

5. Fuel Theft

Fuel Theft


According to Countryside Alliance, statistics show that Statistics show that of all the items available on a farm, fuel was the eighth most likely thing to be targeted by criminals. Criminals can drain an unprotected thousand litre fuel tank in minutes, which can put their victims in financial hardship.

According to the Certas Energy survey from LAMMA 2018, it is estimated that 22% of agricultural businesses were victims of fuel theft. Commercial fuel theft is accountable for 75% of all fuel stolen. Due to an increase in fuel theft in recent years, some police forces now have dedicated resources to tackle fuel theft from agricultural, freight and domestic sources.

You don’t have to search the news too hard to find a raft of news articles about fuel thefts.  For example, Farmers Weekly recently reported that thieves raided a Monmouthshire farm – stealing 30,000 litres of oil fuel. Another example is a thief caught on CCTV (in retrospect) after stealing fuel from a farm in Hertfordshire.

For years, petrol stations have been using monitored CCTV to catch individuals who drive off without paying for fuel and deter crimes. As well as providing evidence to police, these monitored systems also help deter thieves from committing the offence. When combined with adequate lighting, PIR detectors and audio equipment – remotely monitored CCTV protection can be an invaluable line of farm security defence for a fraction of the cost the loss of fuel will set you back.

6. Arson

Arson on Farms


Farmers Guardian reported that arsonists and electrical fires left the farming industry with a £49.1 million bill in 2019. Scanning the news there has been spate of arson attacks on farms across the country. Recently for example Farmers Weekly reported a farm in Lincolnshire lost 140 bales in a second arson attack, with the deliberately started blaze spreading to a barn housing pigs.

Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service reveal that every year in the UK over 1,700 farm buildings and 66,000 areas of grassland are destroyed by fire. Fifty per cent of these fires are started deliberately, either as an act of mindless vandalism or a fraudulent insurance claim.

A serious fire on a farm can affect the financial stability of even the most well run business. Forty per cent of businesses that suffer arson attacks never trade successfully again.

Farms are particularly vulnerable to arson due to their isolated location and open boundaries. Whilst arson attacks on farms and small holdings may be difficult to eliminate, a number of simple precautions can help to reduce the risk of attack:

  • Provide, repair or replace damaged fencing or gates
  • Install intruder sensors and security lighting
  • Maintain the security of out buildings
  • Replace or re-site security and warning notices
  • Maintain fire fighting equipment and check that it is in good order
  • Prepare a fire routine and action plan, make sure all farm workers know what to do.

Monitored Thermal CCTV cameras can be particularly effective in spotting the first signs of fire whether by arson or not.

7. Fly Tipping

Fly Tipping on Farms


Farming UK reported that Defra statistics show 1,072,431 incidents of fly-tipping were dealt with by local authorities in 2018/19, an eight percent rise on the 998,000 in 2017-18. In 2020 however, instances are expected to be higher due to closures of HWRC sites during the pandemic and although Defra has increased local authority enforcement powers, the task of clearing the dumped rubbish is still down to the farmer.

Countryside Alliance report that fly-tipping affects 67% of farmers and is estimated to cost them £47 million every year. The average cost of cleaning up an incident is £800.

Ensuring fields with roadsides are blocked or gated, security lights and cameras at vulnerable locations are also advised as a security deterrent.  CCTV can be helpful in providing retrospective surveillance footage of incidents that can assist with prosecutions, but monitored CCTV has the advantage of being able to proactively respond to incidents and help to deter them before they progress. CCTV audio warnings can be particularly effect in deterring this type of incident.

8. GPS Theft

gps theft

In an article by Agriland, in 2020 farmers were warned to ramp up their security measures after a spate of thefts of tractor GPS equipment with criminal gangs working their way from farms in the South West and up through the Midlands to Staffordshire.

A Sussex farmer is devastated and demoralised after an organised crime gang stole thirteen GPS systems worth around £200,000.

DC Chris Piggott, rural vehicle crime officer at the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (Navcis), commented:

“Navcis are seeing organised crime gangs increasingly moving throughout the UK targeting farmers for their tractor GPS systems.”

These units have subsequently appeared for sale in Eastern Europe, Africa and even the United States. Rebecca Davidson of NFU Mutual states,

“This trend is deeply worrying for farmers who are investing in hi-tech equipment to make their farms more efficient and reduce pollution.”

> To speak to Farsight about how remote CCTV and alarm monitoring can help you protect your farm vehicles, simply call 0845 0371 0101 or drop us a line here

9. Shotgun Theft

Shotgun Theft

In July 2019 Farmers Guardian a farmer was shot as masked men raided his Lancashire farmhouse to steal shotguns, jewellery and cash. These incidents are becoming all too frequent across the UK. In Hampshire for example, Police issued a warning a spate of burglaries targeting shotguns and in Northern Ireland alone, the BBC reported 190 legally held guns were stolen over a five year period.

Although relative small in comparison to illegal guns finding their way into the hands of criminals, according to the National Crime Agency,  stolen lawfully held firearms present another way that firearms can enter the criminal market.

In Nov 2020 Countryside Alliance reported that shotgun theft is on the rise and urges the shooting community must do everything it can to halt this rise.  It appears that shotguns are increasingly being intentionally targeted by thieves.  Compared to the same period in 2019, shotgun theft in 2020 is up by over 50%.

While it is a legal requirement to always store your shotgun securely, with ONS figures showing there were 9,787 crimes involving guns in 2019, now is an excellent time to review your security arrangements at home and consider whether they can be improved.

Monitored alarms and/or CCTV are an efficient farm security measure to give you the peace of mind that your premises, assets and people are being better protected. Farsight offers a range of remote farm security monitoring services including:

How can you optimise your farm security with Farsight?

security monitoring


Effective CCTV monitoring has become a crucial element to consider when optimising businesses security to protect premises, assets and people. So, how does remote CCTV monitoring work?

In our experience, by combining CCTV monitoring with live, proactive audio warnings can be particularly effective in deterring farm security incidents before they progress. In fact, during 2020 Farsight CCTV operators issued a mammoth 119,901 audio deterrent warnings and progressed almost 10,000 incidents to blue light services demonstrating a proactive security deterrent approach rather than a retrospective one.

As a leading UK based remote monitoring station, Farsight works with security systems installers and business sites across the farming & agriculture sectors to help protect their premises, assets and people with our range of security monitoring services.  Our services Include:

We can help to protect what’s yours from theft, fire or malicious damage… we’d love to see how we can work with you to optimise your farm security…contact us below.

In addition, we offer a 10% discount to fellow NFU members.