The true extent of Armagh’s rural crime figures make for shocking reading.
And latest figures outlined in the Assembly have revealed that the number of cattle reported stolen or missing in the Armagh area hit an all-time high during the past financial year.
It has been revealed that 2,523 cattle were stolen or missing in the area covered by the Armagh Divisional Veterinary Office over the past five years.
The information was provided by Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill in response to a question from Upper Bann MLA Sam Gardiner.
The Minister explained: “Under the Cattle Identification Regulations 2012, keepers must report cattle that are lost or stolen in writing to DARD within seven days of the event being noticed.
“Information on stolen animals or animals reported missing is kept on the Department’s database: the animal and public health information system (APHIS).
“APHIS does not differentiate between missing, lost or stolen animals.”
The number of cattle reported missing or stolen in the Armagh DVO area was 497 in 2010-11; 342 in 2011-12; and 389 in 2012-13.
There was a huge hike in incidents during 2013-14, with 629 cattle reported missing or stolen.
And that had increased even further, to a staggering 666, in the financial year just ended.
“That totals just over 2,500 over the last five years,” explained the Minister. “The PSNI actively investigates reports of stolen cattle.
“I encourage any keeper who suspects that an animal has been stolen to report it to the PSNI as soon as possible so that a full investigation can be carried out.”
Minister O’Neill was also pressed by Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan on what actions had been taken by DARD to try and reduce the number of cattle thefts.
The Minister said DARD had been involved in a number of joint initiatives with the police, including the Farmwatch scheme and the Crimestoppers campaign.
She continued: “The central enforcement team of the veterinary service works closely with the PSNI in conducting joint inspections and investigations. The DARD veterinary service enforcement branch (VSEB) is involved in ongoing training of PSNI officers on animal identification requirements and the associated documentation that is required when livestock are being moved.
“Our VSEB has also attended on-farm workshops organised by the PSNI to discuss those issues and what officers should look out for at roadside checkpoints. The PSNI reports cases of stolen livestock to DARD, and descriptions of stolen livestock are immediately passed to veterinary staff in meat plants right across the island.
“The veterinary service central enforcement team works closely with the special investigations unit in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, sharing intelligence and conducting joint investigations.
“APHIS is available live in all markets and abattoirs.
“If an animal has been reported missing or stolen and subsequently appears on these premises, it cannot be processed for sale or slaughter without a DARD investigation.”
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