BY EMMA CONNOLLY
THE safe return of 13 Friesians that were stolen from a shed near Church Cross, Skibbereen, a week ago would be nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
But that’s not stopping hairdresser and part-time farmer Niamh Harte from hoping the animals she reared from when they were just a few weeks old will be found safely – especially as the IFA have offered a reward of €10,000 for information leading to the arrest and charging of individuals in connection with the livestock theft.
The Friesians were in a pen of 45 animals comprising Charlaois and Limousins, which Niamh’s father, Martin, said would have been far more valuable to rob.
‘That’s why I think the Friesians were stolen for a specific market,’ he said. The animals, housed in a shed at Skeagh, near the homeplace at Foherlagh, were last checked on Wednesday night at 7pm and they were reported missing shortly after 7.30 the next morning with visible tyre tracks going up the road.
The most common time for this type of crime to take place is between midnight and 4am.
Worth between €7,000 and €8,000 Martin, a suckler and drystock farmer, said he was gutted to discover his insurance policy didn’t cover him for theft.
The plan had been to finish the animals, which they had reared since they were calves, and to sell them for the beef market. But it’s more than the loss of money as Martin said: ‘They were like family to us. It’s devastating to think they could be slaughtered.’
Niamh, 23, who works at Hair Gallery in Bantry, said the theft was ‘heartbreaking.’
‘I had a real bond with these animals – I even had names for a few of them. ‘
The hard worker has spent the past year feeding the cows before departing for her day job – tending to them again on her return in the evening.
‘I’m still hoping for the best and thinking positive. I’m hoping I’ll see them again. Getting them back would be the best Christmas present ever.’
West Cork IFA chairman Corney Buckley has warned farmers to be vigilant following the theft. He advised farmers to check their sheds and stock and to be wary of any suspicious activity in their area or near their farms.
West Cork Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Ian O’Callaghan said it was essential to make such thefts as difficult as possible.
‘This is a rare offence – it does not happen around here too often. Famers need to look at where their animals are kept over the winter period and be mindful if they are housed in an outside farm. They need to look at robust locks eg steel based closed shackle padlocks and CCTV.
‘Transport is needed for a crime like this so points where vehicles can gain access also need to be looked at and have locks.’ He said the public also had a role to play and should contact gardai immediately if they spot any transport vehicles at unusal times or at unusual locations.
The stolen animals are one-year-old bullocks with identifying features of recently-clipped backs and tails for lice treatment.
Information can be given anonymously to the Crimestoppers confidential telephone service on 1800 25 00 25 or to Skibbereen Gardaí, who are investigating the crime, on 028-23088.