Many farms have expensive machinery and livestock that can become a target for thieves.
The trouble is that farms often cover large areas of land and are impossible to keep completely secure, but farmers can take measures to protect property and stock.
A thorough security check should be on top of the priority list, and there are many ways to make your land and farmyard more secure.
The recent growth in security technology now gives farmers access to security measures that were once impossible or unaffordable. However, sophisticated technology cannot replace old-fashioned vigilance and common sense.
The government has good security advice for farmers on its website here. We have a few more tips on how farmers can protect their farms from thieves and intruders.
One of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve farm security is to upgrade padlocks and chains. Padlocks are easy to buy and come in all shapes, sizes and grades. But avoid using cheap locks as they can be a false economy, while quality padlocks will have a European CEN standard to indicate how hard they are to break. It's best to buy a well-known brand and check the water resistance. It is helpful to review the padlock design, as some products come with a hardened metal shroud to withstand bolt cutters.
Some products also boast ceramic inserts to combat attacks with a cordless grinder. These enhancements won't stop a determined attack, but thieves must come armed with some heavy-duty equipment if they are to break the lock. High-tech padlocks can be more expensive but will incorporate such things as GPS devices and a SIM card that can send a text or email if someone tampers with them.
The thin chains traditionally used to secure farm field gates are a significant security headache for farmers. Chains should be upgraded to a minimum of 10mm thickness, although a 16mm chain is best for stopping all but the most determined thief. Padlocks for field gate chains should be enclosed (see above) and serviced if they are to last. The bigger the shackle diameter, the better.
Although a CCTV camera system can be helpful for farmers, a cheaper solution can be a driveway alarm. These are relatively simple PIR (passive infrared) devices that throw a beam across the driveway and trigger an alarm if the beam is broken. They can be useful across important field gates but are limited in range. Most are battery-driven and have a limited timespan. However, batteries can last up to 18 months, and more solar-powered devices and battery/solar combinations are coming on the market. Solar power is ineffective in the shade, but some can be powered by solar boosters placed in a sunny spot. Receivers can even be connected to an autodialer, so farmers get an alert voice call or text message. Other driveway alarm systems can be buried a few inches underground and detect vehicles instead of cows, but they can cost slightly more.
With a steady rise in rural crime and fly-tipping, farmers find it increasingly necessary to install security gates around the farmyard. But farm gate security can also be a nuisance when farmers need constant and easy access in and out of the property. Gates can be opened or closed with key fobs, powered by a battery and solar combinations, so there is no need for a mains supply, and some even come equipped with SIM cards and GSM technology so farmworkers can open gates with mobile phones. Trackless sliding gates that offer better protection against ram-raiders and heavy-duty gates with metal road surface flaps can make it impossible to get through in a vehicle without authorisation. Still, these can come with a hefty price tag.
CCTV systems are now fairly commonplace on farms. Security cameras can be used on farm entrances and in buildings that house valuable machinery or even livestock sheds where they can monitor the animals and any intruders. Farmyard security CCTV systems are best installed by a specialist contractor such as Crown Securities UK. Many factors need to be taken into account to ensure a secure network.
Farmers can buy DIY kits for farm CCTV but need to consider sightlines, light levels, monitors and other factors crucial to effective security setup. CCTV cameras are usually linked by wireless access points to your existing Wi-Fi router, allowing farmers to view captured footage on a PC, tablet or smartphone. Recorders can be triggered by PR sensors and footage used to monitor livestock and barns where machinery is stored.
The latest CCTV used by wildlife enthusiasts can be useful for farmers who want a mobile option (useful for monitoring potential fly-tipping spots). A camera can operate for up to 12 months on a single set of batteries and take photographs or capture video if PIR beams are broken. More expensive versions have SIM cards to send alerts and wirelessly beam HD images. Some farm security systems also offer all-in-one solutions with security cameras, video capture, LED floodlighting and audible warnings built into the same equipment.
Farmers should be aware that using security cameras as part of a business concern technically comes under the 1998 Data Protection Act. That means that farmers can't hide CCTV cameras and need a sign that says CCTV is being used for crime prevention. Farmers must also ensure that cameras aren't pointing at other properties or passers-by. CCTV footage can be used in a court to secure a part of a prosecution, but it should have a clear audit trail to demonstrate where the footage was captured, and farmers should formally notify the Information Commissioner's Office that they may be collecting personal data on CTTV.