A call has been made for Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill to issue emergency funding to set up a ‘flock watch' scheme to combat sheep rustling.
Nor th Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann is demanding action following two high profile sheep rustling cases in the constituency in recent days.
Some 214 sheep were stolen in Loughgiel — believed to be one of the biggest ever cases of its kind in Northern Ireland — and Mr Swann said the total number of sheep taken in a second raid at nearby Broughshane was 143.
The MLA, a past president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, said: “I urge neighbourhood watch schemes and community groups in rural areas to be on the alert following these thefts.’’
“In the meantime, I call on the Farming minister to set aside emergency DARD funding to help farmers set up ‘flock watch' schemes and stamp out sheep rustling before it becomes a new crime epidemic in Northern Ireland,’’ he added,
Another North Antrim MLA, Paul Frew of the DUP, who is the chairman of the Stormont Agricultural Committee, wants the PSNI to set up a specialist rural crime taskforce.
Meanwhile, it is believed scrap metal thieves may also be targeting farmers.
Police in Coleraine are investigating eight reports of thefts of large metal gates from fields in the Aghadowey and Garvagh areas in the past few days.