Reports of sheep rustling are again in the headlines with news of ewes stolen in Whanganui recently.
Federated Farmers and the police are working together to try and eliminate the illegal meat trade which costs farmers throughout New Zealand many thousands of dollars annually.
"The animals are the basis of our livelihoods and are worth anywhere between $100 and $1500 a head," Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson Jeanette Maxwell says.
"To let police know the extent of the problem, farmers need to report all stock rustling, so the appropriate resources can be allocated to this on-going problem."
Stock rustling, or poaching, usually spikes when meat prices rise and lamb and beef are still commanding reasonable prices in the supermarkets.
Police want farmers to report every instance of stock theft, as well as any other thefts from farms, so they can get a better idea of the problem.
It is likely many rustling raids are connected to gangs and even a couple of missing animals could be a key piece of information about a larger pattern of offending.
While sheep and cattle are the main targets, all stock, including deer, goats and pigs are being targeted and most are taken for consumption, rather than stolen for on-farming.
"It is not just about protecting farmers' incomes," Mrs Maxwell says.
"There are health risks for those who consume meat from the animals. There have been many instances of stock being stolen while within withholding periods after being treated with health remedies.
"These animals are not cleared for human consumption and can make people sick if they eat them."
As well as taking precautions to discourage would-be rustlers, farmers also need to be aware of other situations where farming property is targeted by criminals. There has been a spate of thefts of quad and farm bikes, scrap metal and electric fencing in many areas.
Farmers need to take all practical steps to protect their property and stock. "This can include shutting road gates, locking gates and buildings, and installing security cameras," Federated Farmers security spokesperson Katie Milne says.
Ms Milne does not recommend confronting people acting suspiciously near the farm as they may be armed. "You can take photographs of people and vehicles and report sightings to police."
It is also a good idea to form a community watch where information is shared and neighbours can watch adjacent farmland.
Police say crime has three components: a motivated offender; a target; which on a farm can be an unlocked shed containing valuable items; and no one around to keep watch.
Farmers can reduce opportunities for offenders by noting who is out and about and talking to them, particularly if they are not locals, locking houses, removing keys, closing access gates, particularly to home driveways, and keeping a watch on neighbouring properties.
For more information call your local community constable or check out www.police.govt.nz/safety/rural.html