Rural crime cost UK farms more than £42 million in 2015. As well as the cost of having to replace equipment, for small farms losing pieces of kit can have serious impacts on their productivity and ultimately their bottom line.

Glenn Woolley, Senior Loss Control Surveyor at NFU Mutual, tells Caroline Stocks about the top security risks on small farms, and how they can be limited.

1. Quad bikes and ATVs

Quads and All-Terrain Vehicles are the top target for thieves in the UK thanks to them being easier to steal and sell-on than larger farm vehicles.

As well as being simple to drive-off when they’re left standing, thieves are also taking them from workshops and barns, so lock down devices and heavy-duty padlocks and chains are a worthwhile investment, says Mr Woolley.

“Anything which delays thieves and prevents them from just jumping on and driving off is going to be a deterrent,” he says.

“It’s worth investing in a quality padlock and chain: Ones which are approved by Secured By Design – a police-approved product scheme – can cost up to £100, but it’s worth investing in something which takes time to remove.”

2. Tractors

Tractor thefts cost the UK £5.4 million in 2015. While large, expensive machines may seem the obvious target, thieves are now targeting smaller and older models, which are less conspicuous to move around. They are also targeting kit inside tractors, such as satellite navigation equipment.

To deter them, Mr Woolley says it’s important to leave machinery parked in a secure area, and to take keys from the cab when they’re not in use.

Machinery should be security marked with DNA marking devices and SmartWater tools, which can enable tractors and their parts to be traced back to their rightful owners. Additionally, immobilisers and trackers are a simple but effective way for farmers to track their vehicles. They can be very easily fitted by an experienced agricultural engineer.

“It’s also worth signing up to CESAR, an agricultural equipment registration scheme, which increases the chance of recovering stolen goods by helping police identify stolen machinery,” he says. “It costs a few hundred pounds to sign up, but when a tractor is so valuable to a business it’s definitely worth it.”

3. Farm tools

“Tools aren’t alarmed, so when they get left on a workshop bench they are easy to take,” says Mr Woolley.

Locking them in a container or inside a locked room can help slow down a determined thief, while alarm systems in workshops can limit the amount of time a criminal stays in a building.

“If the farmhouse is nearby and you’ll be alerted quickly then you may just use a simple alarm system although in other areas or where more value is at risk there may be a need for remote monitoring of the alarm,” he says. “You can also get high-decibel systems which make is difficult for someone to remain in the room for very long.”

4. Trailers and horse boxes

Farmers often have no choice but to store trailers outside, but there are still precautions they can take to limit the risk of theft.

“Locks and wheel locks can be fitted when they are not in use, and you can mark them so it’s obvious who they belong to,” says Mr Woolley. “Painting postcodes on the roof can also be helpful, as a police helicopter can spot it and thieves won’t know it’s up there.”

Security lighting can also be useful provided there are people around who can be alerted to them. “If the farmhouse is nearby then lighting can be a good deterrent, but if it’s a remote location then you could just be providing light for the criminals.”

5. Fuel

Fuel tanks on farmyards can be equipped with alarms that sound when fuel levels drop, but protecting vehicles from fuel thefts can be difficult if you live in a remote location.

“Try to keep your property secure by locking gates where possible, and secure the perimeter with fences,” says Mr Woolley. “If you can’t fence the entire perimeter, then secure specific areas where high-value items are kept.

“That doesn't mean just putting a padlock on a door – you need to look at the whole scene and build layers of security where you can.”

Tips for protecting your farm

  •  Use SmartWater to identify your property
  •  Fit heavy-duty padlocks to outbuildings
  •  Make sure hinges and latches are bolted from the inside – not screwed – so they can’t be removed
  •  Don’t leave items on view
  •  Keep external gates locked
  •  Consider outside security lighting and CCTV
  •  Display signs which advertise your security measures

Find out more about Farm Essentials: insurance for farms under 50 hectares.