Serious concerns about sheep rustling in the county have been raised and it is claimed in some cases, farmers may not even realise they have been the victim of the crime.
There has been a rise in the number of suspected sheep rustling incidents across the county, with the last one believed to have taken place in the Glenties area in recent days where six prized ewes went missing, believed stolen.
There have been several other incidents reported, mainly along border areas, in recent months and the Chairman of the Donegal Branch of the IFA, PJ McMonagle, says in some cases where farmers notice one or two sheep missing, they may well have been taken illegally rather than having escaped from their field.
He says the current tagging system for sheep is being exploited by criminals and it is a crime “near impossible” to detect.
“It’s an ongoing problem and unless they are caught in the act, it’s very hard to get those sheep again,” PJ McMonagle said.
“Most likely the sheep that have been stolen, if they were ewe lambs, they would go straight to the factory. The old tags would be cut out and new tags put in. They are off the system and they are so hard to track down again. It’s nearly impossible. The only chance is if they are caught on the road and asked to show the animals. What are the chances of that? It’s like winning the Lotto.”
He also said in some cases there may be as little as two sheep taken from a flock, but some farmers write this off as escaped animals when this is not the case.
He said a more rigid system of tagging cattle helps prevents a higher rate of cattle rustling but in the sheep sector, theft is “rife”.
Mr. McMonagle said one of the best methods to help combat the problem is for neighbours to work together and keep an eye on each other’s farms and animals and making a note of any unfamiliar vehicles.