A farming group believes there is little hope of finding hundreds of sheep stolen from a Southland farm, saying they could be anywhere.
The 320 sheep were stolen from a farm south-west of Gore, and police believe the theft took place between Sunday 21 and Sunday 28 April.
Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesperson, Miles Anderson said the sheep were probably trucked off the property and could be anywhere in New Zealand.
"Unfortunately these cases have a low-resolution rate, so they could be anywhere between Bluff and Kaitaia," he said.
He said there could be a number of scenarios.
"They could have been on-sold, on a farm or taken to a meatworks," said Anderson.
He said one of the concerns around stock rustling was public safety.
"The people responsible and who are selling them have no idea what animals health remedies have been given over the past week, in terms of medications."
He felt for the farmer targeted by the rustlers.
"It's generally too expensive to insure run off the mill sheep, so for that farmer it may be the difference between profit and loss."
He said the sheep were probably pregnant ewes, so there was also a loss of income for the following season.
Anderson hoped new rules which crack down on stock rustling will act as a deterrent,
The Crimes Amendment Bill, means those found guilty of the theft of livestock, or other animals, face a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment and hefty fines.
"It's a good thing, but we have to catch them first, and police in the provinces are light on resources, and resolution is low."
A Federated Farmers survey last year indicated that livestock rustling was costing the industry an estimated $120 million annually.
Miles Anderson said farmers can try and avoid getting stock stolen by putting locks on gates, setting up CCTV camera technology, and making sure they tell neighbours when they are going away.
"These are the little things which add up to make a difference."
Anyone who may have noticed suspicious behaviour in the area, or has any notable information can contact Constable Wayne McClelland at Mataura Police on 03 203 8164, quoting file number 190501/0566.