Bird hustlers swoop in geese farm raid

Simon Waudby with farm employee Kristian Mitchell
Simon Waudby with farm employee Kristian Mitchell
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Farmers and landowners in Yorkshire have been urged to be on their guard against foul play by Christmas poultry thieves after a farmer fell victim to a costly raid at its busiest time of the year.

More than 100 geese with a combined value of £17,600 have been stolen from Headlands Farm in the village of Flawith near Easingwold, North Yorkshire, leaving farmer Simon Waudby with a huge bill.

Despite the setback, a resolute Mr Waudby vowed to deliver on all Christmas orders placed by customers.

“I’m saddened and disappointed,” he said.

“For everyone who gets a Christmas goose off us it is the focal point of the Christmas meal and we’ve had a few calls from customers since it happened.”

Mr Waudby supplies geese to several farm shops and receives around 100 orders from local people over the farmgate.

“It’s a lot of extra hassle and stress for all concerned but no one will be let down. It just gives me more hassle and pressure to get the quality birds that we do. We are in the British Geese Society so we have contacts we can turn to.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is urging others to take precautions to avoid similar heartbreak.

Security has been stepped up at Mr Waudby’s farm in response to the incident.

He said: “It has financial implications and human implications. In this last week we have invested in an awful lot of extra security – a new alarm system and CCTV.

“This is usually a very joyous time of the year but this has cast a very dark cloud over things.”

Dorothy Fairburn, the CLA’s regional director for the North, warned all poultry farmers not to underestimate the guile, and gall, of thieves over the festive season.

She said: “Specialist poultry farms are usually well protected with modern alarm systems and sophisticated security technology. But even they should be extra alert day and night during the run-up to December 25 and never underestimate the audacity and determination of thieves seeking poultry to steal.

“However, it is often the ordinary farmer rearing birds for family, friends and regular customers who proves to be the most vulnerable target for poultry rustlers. Failure to take strict security precautions to safeguard their flock could be rewarded with a miserable Christmas when they find an empty shed one morning and months of work and investment wiped out in one night.

“Don’t forget one of the oldest – but still one of the most efficient and cost-effective farmyard alarm systems – an alert dog with sensitive hearing and a loud bark.”

The CLA advises that there are simple rules that all landowners and farmers should follow to lower the risk of being targeted by criminals.

Flocks should be kept in a structurally sound building with locked doors and sealed windows, as close to the farmhouse as possible, and the registration plate numbers of any strange vehicles parked suspiciously nearby should be noted and shared with police in the event of a raid.

County records highest claims

The total value of rural thefts across the whole of the UK are down, according to the findings of the most recent Rural Crime Survey published by insurer NFU Mutual.

Rural theft cost an estimated £42.3m during 2012, down almost 20 per cent on the previous year. While the overall picture is better, at a total value of £3.4m, rural crime was higher in Yorkshire than in any other county nationwide based on claims reported to the insurer.

Tools, ATVs and quad bikes, oil and diesel are the most stolen items.