A GANG of rustlers have stolen pedigree cattle worth more than £9,000 from a Cliviger farm.

Police are hunting thieves with specialist knowledge after 14 animals were snatched from a property in Long Causeway.

The National Farmers Union and police are concerned for the animals’ welfare after seven heavily pregnant cows and three male calves, too young for legal slaughter were among those stolen.

The thieves lifted a farm gate off its hinges to get into an open-door barn where the cattle were kept while the farmer and his family were away.

Adam Briggs, Lancashire adviser for the NFU, said that he expected there to be expert handlers involved in the raid.

He said: “If they are a very good pedigree, these breeds can fetch thousands, if not tens of thousands of pounds at auction.

“And moving these animals, which can weigh 600 or 700kg, is not something just anybody could do.

“You would need a specialist mode of transport, with a cattle ramp, to get them into the vehicle, and segregators to keep the different ages apart when inside. Livestock thefts are usually sheep, because they are small. You can put two sheep in the back of your car, which you definitely can’t do with a Limousin bull. And you have to have somewhere to take them.

“There is a real welfare issue because cows in the last 10 per cent of their pregnancy aren’t allowed to be transported and it would have been very stressful for the animals.

“It must be very upsetting for the farmer.”

An Aberdeen Angus and a Belgian Blue cow, both due to calf in two weeks, four Limousin bullocks, four pregnant Limousin heifers, two Limousin bull calves, a short horn bull calf and a Charolois cross cow in calf were stolen between Sunday evening and Monday night.

PCSO Dave Johnson, of Burnley Police, said: “We’ve contacted the local auction markets to let them know the cows’ serial numbers and have been making enquiries in the area. It’s in a remote location, only three miles from the West Yorkshire border. I’m very concerned for the cows’ welfare and we are doing all we can.”

The cattle’s serial numbers are prefixed with UK18471. Anyone with information should call police on 101.