FARMERS must be wondering if there will ever be an end to the catalogue of problems plaguing their industry.

After a period of growing optimism just a couple of years ago, the agricultural sector appears to have fallen into a new phase of despair.

The bad weather has blighted crops and hay meadows, affecting the health and condition of livestock.

Diseases like saut, Schmallenberg virus and liver fluke - the latter perpetuated by last year’s monsoon summer - have added greatly to farmers’ concerns.

Add to this poorer livestock prices and uncertainty over CAP reform, and you can understand why farmers currently feel so beleaguered, even desperate.

You would think the last thing they need is to have another insidious issue to contend with.

The problem is they have - livestock thefts.

Over the past year there has been a worrying number of rustling incidents in Cumbria These are mostly sheep taken from fields - an easy steal for thieves in this area because they are often away from the farmsteads.

However, a new concerning development was reported last week - the theft of six Limousin cattle from Moser Hill Farm in Dent.

What is particularly concerning about this theft is that the animals were taken from a building at the very heart of the farm.

Whoever raided Moser Hill must have spent time casing the premises - a particularly unnerving aspect of the case.

Then they turned up at dead of night and must have been expert enough to handle the animals, which can often spook when unfamiliar people are around.

The thieves were also good judges of cattle because they took the best six of the Limousins.

What should be particularly concerning is that for such a crime to be successfully executed, the thieves need a market for the animals, which could involve unscrupulous livestock hauliers and abattoir owners.

The ongoing horsemeat scandal has highlighted how easy it is for the food industry to be manipulated - let’s hope with the closing of one illicit source of cheap meat we are not leaving a vacuum to be filled by another.