FARMERS in Uttoxeter are being urged to up their security after fresh figures have revealed a rise in rural crime.
According to insurer NFU Mutual, the cost of rural crime on the UK's rural economy is up 5.2 per cent on 2012's figures, reaching £44.5m in 2013.
The firm says 2013 was the worst year on record for livestock theft.
The insurer creates an annual rural crime report based on claims data and this year's report identified a rise in cattle rustling and the theft of high-value agricultural equipment.
David Brookes, a farmer in Lower Loxley and chairman of Staffordshire NFU, said: "The report highlights that crime is an issue in rural areas just as much as it is in urban areas.
"I've been a victim of theft. Someone got into a building next to the farmhouse at night and took some tools. Sometimes thieves view isolated farms as easy pickings.
"My advice would be make sure everything is as secure as possible. Any strange vehicles on farmland should be reported to the police and crime should always be reported."
The most common items targeted over the past 12 months included tools, all-terrain vehicles and quad bikes, oil and diesel.
Jeremy Lowe, NFU Mutual county advisor for Staffordshire, said: "We're seeing more rural crime at this time of year because of harvest time.
"Staffordshire is on the urban fringe so we get cases of metal theft, diesel theft and theft of heating oil.
"We don't really see large cases of cattle rustling in our area. But consumers can help by looking for the Red Tractor symbol on food packaging and buying from their local butcher, rather than from the back of a truck."
Mr Lowe said often thefts are planned, adding: "Thieves are forming gangs who are carrying out surveillance on farms and once a farm has been targeted, it is likely to be hit again. But farmers can take precautions and we are working with Staffordshire Police on rural crime and wildlife crime."
Farmers can take security measures such as CCTV, security lighting, making sure machinery is not left unattended and locking up. Sheep are also electronically tagged and cattle have passports to make it harder for thieves to sell them on.
Any victims of rural crime are asked to call the Post and Times on 01889 565076.