More than 1,500 cattle have been reported either as stolen or lost in the Omagh area in just three years, figures released by a government department have revealed.
The statistics, obtained from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) after a Freedom of Information request by UUP leader Robin Swann, showed that almost 11,000 cattle across the North were reported as either lost or stolen from the start of 2016 to the end of 2018.
In the Omagh divisional veterinary area, the total was 1,501 over the three years – 518 in 2016, rising to 547 in 2017 and then a fall to 436 last year.
After securing the figures from DAERA, Mr Swann warned that organised crime gangs were becoming increasingly involved with the theft of cattle across the North.
Mr Swann said, “Cattle can and do disappear for a host of genuine reasons.
“They can fall down steep drops when grazing and others can even be swept away in flood waters.
“No-one, however, thinks 10,755 cattle have succumbed to such events in the last three years.
“The reality is that a large number have been stolen.”
The North Antrim MLA said he had requested the information after hearing of a growing number of reports of livestock thefts in recent weeks and months.
“I was shocked by the response I received,” he said.