ICSA claims 2% of the national sheep stock has been stolen

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association is estimating that up to 2pc of the national sheep flock -- 50,000 animals -- has been stolen in the last few years.

In some cases, flocks of up to 200 sheep at a time are being rustled and their identity tags cut off before new ones are attached. These animals are then being sold on for slaughter.

Paul Brady, chairman of the ICSA national sheep committee, said there have been large-scale thefts of sheep in counties Donegal, Roscommon, Wicklow and Kerry.