Tractor thefts have turned life ‘upside-down’ for farming family

Two John Deere tractors, a 6810 model on left and a 6900 model on right. They were stolen from Woodside Road farm in Ballymena, probably in the early hours of Monday July 31.

Two John Deere tractors, a 6810 model on left and a 6900 model on right. They were stolen from Woodside Road farm in Ballymena, probably in the early hours of Monday July 31.

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A farmer who fell victim to a gang of thieves said that he and his family have been forced to rely on the charity of others to continue their work.

Co Antrim livestock farmer Colm Mc Donnell told the News Letter the theft had left him “totally in shock”, and that he had gone out hunting for the stolen goods himself after he learned about it.

Two John Deere tractors, one a 6810 model and the other a 6900, were stolen from land off the Woodside Road, to the east of Ballymena.

A bright red McCauley low-loader trailer (of the twin-axel variety) was also taken, as was a quantity of diesel.

Mr Mc Donnell believes that the thieves were well-organised and “took their time”, possibly using the tank of diesel to fill up the tractors which they then drove away.

Although his family farm is based in Armoy, they rent the Ballymena land as tenants.

Police said the theft took place between 3pm on Sunday and 7.30am on Monday.

However, as of Tuesday evening Mr Mc Donnell said he had been passed information indicating that they were seen leaving the field after 5am.

It is thought that they may have been driven in the direction of Kells.

He estimated the total value of all the equipment as being around £60,000.

It was insured, Mr Mc Donnell was nonetheless fearful that any payout would not cover the cost of replacing it.

“It’s just basically put everything upside-down,” said the 37-year-old, who was harvesting and baling silage in Armoy on Tuesday with his 65-year-old father Charlie.

“I’m totally reliant on neighbours’ charity at the minute, volunteering help and assistance.

“[The silage] is just for today. Tomorrow it’ll be some other job. The tractors are needed; when they disappeared we ran into big problems.”

They had suffered the theft of quads some years ago, but this is on a different scale.

He and a number of others had been awake until midnight on Monday scouring the fields around Ballymena.

“The police are doing their thing, but we can’t just sit down and do nothing,” he said.

To provide information, call police in Ballymena on 101, quoting reference number 225 dated 01/08/16.