Drought-stricken farmers hit by sheep thefts

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Farmers say soaring wool and meat prices are spurring a wave of livestock thefts across the country.

Sheep farmer Noel Siviour was rounding up his mob earlier this year when he noticed some were missing.

“They were pregnant ewes, with wool, full wool,” he told SBS News.

That was in January. Last month, he discovered another 140 missing.

“I was fairly upset about it, we put a lot of work into our sheep,” he said. “It was terrible.”

Sheep farmer Noel Siviour
Sheep farmer Noel Siviour says he's had almost 200 animals stolen from his SA farm this year.
SBS

The farmer from South Australia’s drought-affected Eyre Peninsula estimates the losses have cost him about $50,000 and will affect his production for years to come, particularly with dry conditions already taking a toll.

“It’s tough enough as it is,” he said. "Costs you a lot of money to get feed to keep sheep going.” 

More than 20,000 sheep and cattle were reported stolen across South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia last year, costing farmers more than $5 million. 

Bill Nolsworthy, a farmer and board member with Livestock SA, believes rising wool and meat prices are spurring more thefts.

“There has been a big rise in the last couple of years in the value of sheep, and therefore there has been a rise in the number of thefts,” he said.

The National Livestock Identification System is designed to trace and track sheep, lamb and goats across the country. But some farmers say identification tags can easily be removed by criminals and replaced with fake ones.

Mr Nolsworthy says other methods should be investigated to protect farmers' livelihoods.

“They’re a good identification method and a vital one through the system of sales, but I’ve always maintained, and many of us do, that there should be one more, or two more, methods of checking.”

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