Rising price of hay drives rise in theft
Around the country bales have been stolen from the side of the road, barns, outhouses and even from occupied stables.
Farmers said cost of hay has risen from the usual £2.50 per bale to £4.50 or even £6 in some parts of the country. The hike in prices has been driven by a shortage of hay because of a bad harvest following the cold winter and dry spring. The amount of hay harvested in June is down 20 per cent.
Now police are on the lookout for thieves targeting more farms so they can sell the hay on when prices rise further in the winter. Farmers, horse owners and even zoos and animal sanctuaries are concerned animals may go hungry or have to be sold on as prices rise further to £8.50 per bale, especially as grain prices are also hitting a record high.
Farmers in Kent, Cambridgeshire, the Thames Valley have reported the theft of hundreds of bales. Straw, that is also in short supply, has been targeted as well. The Museum of Life in Maidstone and Kent Wildlife Trust Nature reserve, where animals are kept for public display, have also had hundreds of pounds worth stolen.
Nicola Whittaker, of NFU Mutual, said the thieves are taking the hay now because they will be able to sell it on for an even higher price later in the year. She said it was part of a trend that has seen rural crime become much more organised and target goods like fuel, scrap metal and now hay as the price rises. “Hay rustling is the latest in a rising wave of crime across rural areas,” she said.
Helen Evans, of Thames Valley Police Horse Watch scheme, urged people to protect their supplies by storing hay and straw in bins or even leaving it loose rather than in bales so it is more difficult to steal. “With the possibility of hay and straw being in short supply, and therefore more expensive, in the coming months please think about ways of securing you hay, straw, bedding and forage,” she said.