The cost of countryside crime in Wiltshire doubled last year, an insurance firm has said.

NFU Mutual, which insures many farm businesses, said the crime cost its customers in the county more than £1,066,000 last year compared to almost £528,000 the year before.

Farms are targeted by gangs keen to steal livestock to sell on the black market meat trade or expensive vehicles and GPS kit that can end up in markets abroad.

Insp Liz Coles of Wiltshire Police labelled the rising cost of rural crime worrying but said a network of new rural officers would focus on preventing crime. “We have made some significant advances in the way in which we police rural crime in recent years, however, criminals are becoming more organised and determined and are using more sophisticated technology so there is always more that can be done,” she said.

Liz Webster, who farms near Castle Eaton and is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Wiltshire’s police and crime commissioner role, called for more funding for extra officers. She praised officers who had been out to her farm. “The last time we had somebody driving a motorbike all over a newly sown field. The police were brilliant. They were very responsive and incredibly supportive and efficient.”