Hill farmer left counts cost after 400 sheep are stolen

John Barker reckons the sheep will be sold at about half their value, which is about �120 a head.
John Barker reckons the sheep will be sold at about half their value, which is about �120 a head.

A farmer is counting the cost after rustlers stole more than 400 sheep from his hill farm six miles from Moffat near the Grey Mare’s Tail.

John Barker says the value of the sheep is around £70,000 and is a huge loss.

The Cheviot ewes were in lamb and he fears they will be sold on the ‘black’ market for about half their price.

The theft was discovered took place sometime between Sunday nightand Monday morning on his sprawling 3,500 acres of hill land north of the A708 Moffat to Selkirk road near to the Grey Mare’s Tail beauty spot in Dumfriesshire.

The 71-year-old, who farms with his wife and daughter, said: “It’s a huge loss, but the police have a fair idea what’s going on and we’re hoping that the culprits can be caught and put away.

“They are obviously experienced and know what they’re doing and their dogs must extremely good to do what they did. The ewes were all in lamb and they split the ones that had lambs because they wouldn’t have been able to walk as far and quickly enough.”

Mr Barker made the discovery on Monday when he went to check the sheep at Caplegill Farm six miles north of Moffat. He lives on his other farm near Moffat.

“The count so far is 560 sheep gone, but we’ve had sheep stolen for months now,” he explained. “It’s been happening for years, but in the last six it’s got worse and now this which is really serious

“They must have rounded up the sheep, separated the ones with lambs and then herded them to where they had vehicles.

“They must have had a couple of big articulated lorries to get away with this. It was lovely clear night so they would be able to see what they were doing.”

Mr Barker reckons the sheep will be sold at about half their value, which is about £120 a head.

“They’ll be able to get rid of them by selling them cheap. They’ve taken the best of the sheep and left the ones with the lambs,” he added.

“When you farm such a hill farm you can’t be there all the time. They must have had it well planned.”

Police want to speak to anyone who saw anything suspicious in the 24 hours after 5pm on Sunday.

Detective Inspector Scott Young said: “The theft of such a large amount of sheep would have required careful planning and there must have been vehicles used.

“The grazing land the sheep were on covers several thousand acres north of the A708 Moffat to Selkirk road near to Greymares Tail in Moffat.”

A police spokesman added: “If anyone observed large livestock vehicles in the area or the arrival of a large flock on nearby farmland, please contact us on 101.”