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Thieves may be turning their attention to hay and straw with prices predicted to soar because of poor growing conditions.

Farmers have warned of hay and straw shortages this winter after last year’s damp summer was followed with drought in this year’s growing season.

Now police and Horsewatch groups are warning horseowners their haystacks may be in danger from thieves.

Helen Evans, of Thames Valley Horsewatch said: “With the possibility of hay and straw being in short supply and therefore more expensive, in the coming months, horseowners should think about ways of securing hay, straw, bedding and forage.”

She suggested that cutting the string on small bale of hay or straw makes it virtually impossible for anyone to walk off with it and marking bales of haylage, bedding and feed with spray paint or permanent marker will make them identifiable and less attractive to thieves.

Last month 16 bales of hay were taken from a field in Selby North Yorkshire, with the thieves smashing the lock on the gate.

And bales have also been stolen from yards in West Meon, Winchester and Newbridge, Hants, and a field in Kings Langley in Herts.