Guard-llamas protecting British farms

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LlamaGene J. Puskar/AP/Press Association Images

Research into rural crime and farm security has found a surge in the number of criminal attacks on farms. It also found that farmers are taking steps to protect their property, from the traditional to the more unusual.

So what are they doing, and why, and what exactly is a guard llama?

Rising crime

The survey, by countryside insurer NFU Mutual, found that rural crime had increased 6% in a year and now costs UK farmers £52.7 million a year. Among the most targeted items were expensive power tools, quad bikes, metal and even fuel - although the number of tractor thefts fell slightly.

Theft of metal and chemicals has been identified within the survey as growing trends over the last twelve months. Chemicals used for crop spraying can cost more than £600 for 10 litres. NFU Mutual believes that chemicals like these are now being targeted by organised gangs who ship them abroad to meet demand across Europe.

Protecting farms

The insurer also asked branches about attitudes to crime, and found that 76% of those in branches felt their customers were getting increasingly concerned about crime. As a result they were taking steps to protect themselves.

Some opted for traditional approaches, these included high-tech security measures like CCTV and tracker devices, as well as physical security measures such as locks and alarms.

However, while high-tech security equipment has its merits, it often comes at a hefty price. Just as the recession and rising commodity prices has encouraged thieves to be resourceful in the things they target, farmers are fighting back with creative yet effective recession-busting security measures.

Unusual options

Among the options were farmers keeping llamas in with other livestock. These aggressive animals have long been used in America in pens with sheep to ward off animal attacks. However, their angry nature has convinced farmers that putting them in with other animals will deter thieves too.

When faced with an intruder most will give off an angry alarm call. However, if the thief comes closer, they may also attack. The farmers favour females, which make excellent guards and don't try to mate with the other livestock.

Other approaches include investing in a gaggle of noisy geese, which would alert the farmer of any intruders. They have the advantage of being largely maintenance-free, and as long as there is only one male in the flock, they will remain largely peaceful until the arrival of an intruder. Their first response will be to make an enormous amount of noise. However, when faced with an insistent intruder who threatens their territory, they will attack.

One farmer in the survey told researchers that he deliberately stored quad bikes in a pen behind a Fresian bull. There is no information given as to how he got past it when he wanted to retrieve the vehicles.

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