Will one of the 800 sheep stolen from a Canterbury farm end up on your plate? & More News Headlines


There are various ways one of almost 800 lambs stolen from a Canterbury farm over the weekend could end up on your plate.

Farmer Maury Leyland said on Twitter that rustlers had hit her Canterbury farm and stolen more than 500 lambs.

Police have since confirmed that they received reports on Sunday that 800 lambs were missing from a property in Canterbury.

Police confirmed they were working with the farm owners and were following some positive leads.

So how does sheep rustling actually work, and where do these animals end up?

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National MP and farmer Ian McKelvie earlier said police had stopped collecting statistics on stock theft in 2014. In that year 653 cases were reported and 50 were prosecuted or resolved.

This week, he said there were a number of routes that rustlers took to dispose of stolen sheep.

If only a handful of sheep were stolen, the sheep would likely be slaughtered and eaten by the stock thieves, he said.

The current price for lamb at meatworks is $9 per kilogram.


The current price for lamb at meatworks is $9 per kilogram.

On his own farm McKelvie had in the past found cattle that were slaughtered by rustlers. Rustlers left most of the animal behind and took only the best meat cuts with them.

If a larger number of sheep were stolen they would typically be illegally home-killed and sold at places like a Saturday farmers market, or to an unsuspecting butchery, he said.

Theft of hundreds of sheep stolen was unusual and was clearly well-organised. The thieves would have a market or a buyer ready for them before they committed the theft, McKelvie said.

It was highly unlikely that so many sheep would be slaughtered by a co-conspirator at a meatworks, because controls around meat companies was too strong to allow for such a crime, McKelvie said.

In this case McKelvie believed the lambs would “turn up” on a farm where the farmer did not ask a lot of questions about their origin.

They would be kept until old enough to slaughter. Once fed to saleable age the lambs would be “legally” sold at a saleyard or to a meatworks, he said.

Ian McKelvie says there are many routes that rustlers could take to sell or slaughter them.


Ian McKelvie says there are many routes that rustlers could take to sell or slaughter them.

A theft of such numbers would only be possible on remote farms, such as hill country farms, where criminals would not be noticed, McKelvie said.

Leyland said the impact on the farm was horrible. The current price for lamb at the meatworks was $9 per kilogram.

Lambs were usually sold at 28kg, with a carcass weight of about 13kg.

Leyland had said on Twitter that lambs were very anonymous, unless someone at a sales yard or meatworks paid particular attention to earmarks.

In New Zealand it was a requirement for cattle and deer to have electronic eartags but it was not a legal requirement to use eartags on sheep.

Beef and Lamb manager for technical policy Chris Houston said a paper declaration accompanied sheep when they were moved between farms or to a meatworks. Paper records were kept by both the seller and buyer. There was currently a roll-out of an electronic system that would trace animals via a system run by Ospri, a company that managed animal diseases in New Zealand.

Sheep were traced on mob level, rather than individual level.

Many farmers used ear tags or notches to identify their individual sheep, and there was a range of non-mandatory identification for sheep. This made it difficult to trace sheep, Houston said.

If the electronic system for sheep could be developed it could in future be used to help police with investigations. Such uses were subject to regulatory changes as there was a farmer’s privacy to consider when using information, Houston said.

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