Farms and ranches are two businesses that are especially vulnerable to theft. You’re probably wondering how to keep potential thieves away from your tractors, combines, trucks, livestock and your living space.
Since large properties in rural areas are more isolated from densely populated areas, you can’t depend as much on police or your neighbors to keep intruders away. You have to take security into your own hands.
If you have a lot of employees, the challenge is also preventing internal theft which can occur when many people are responsible for expensive equipment.
These are just a few reasons why I’ve decided to create this list of 23 useful ideas that you can utilize to improve the security of your farm or ranch:
1. Count your stock and gear regularly
Cattle theft can happen over a longer period of time. Most thieves will not try to rob you of too many animals at once.
They usually don’t have the logistics for doing so. They will instead take a few animals at a time, coming back for more. This also holds true for smaller pieces of equipment.
When a theft does occur and people notice it, they sometimes relax thinking that it was a one-off, and this is what many professional thieves count on.
Instead of leaving you alone for good, they might repeat the crime a few days later if they notice you haven’t done anything to improve the security on your property.
So the first step in improving security is checking up that your cattle and expensive equipment is in full numbers on a regular basis.
2. Report suspicious activity and strangers
Pay attention to strangers inspecting your farm/ranch on foot or in a vehicle. Also be in contact with neighboring farmers and ranchers to be up-to-date on any suspicious activities in your local area.
Crimes in rural areas with large properties are unfortunately less reported on than those in places with denser population.
Being proactive about information is important at preventing intruders because it will make you more aware of any impending dangers to a certain type of valuables and the tactics used by the thieves operating in your local area.
3. Install security cameras with motion sensor technology
This is the best thing you can do to protect your living space, the barn and any machinery and equipment. Thieves avoid cameras like the plague.
Motion sensor equipped cameras can send you an alert on your mobile phone if they catch any movement in the monitored area. Then you can check through the camera lens by using the phone app to see exactly what’s going on without having to venture outside and put yourself in harm’s way.
Perhaps it’s nothing, or maybe it’s an armed intruder. In the second situation, you can then lock the doors, call the police, get a self-defense weapon and be prepared to take on the bad guys instead of being surprised by them. Obviously it’s best if you can monitor as much of your property as possible.
For larger areas it’s better to use bullet cameras because they have better length. For smaller and indoor areas dome cameras are typically better because they have a wider lens. In either case, your priority should be monitoring any entrance points and areas where you keep your expensive and important possessions.
For example, the gates, any parts of the fence that are vulnerable to forced entry, barn door, garage and most importantly the entrance points of your house.
Security cameras should also have good video quality and night vision, otherwise they won’t be of much use in identifying the criminals. Having properly positioned surveillance cameras will deter both external and internal thieves, such as farm and ranch workers who might otherwise mistake your kindness for weakness.
4. Lock up the fuel reservoirs
This is a no brainer. Protect your fuel reservoirs just as you would any other equipment. Fuel is especially easy to steal and the effects are usually noticed when it’s too late to catch the criminal.
5. Keep any equipment you can indoors and locked
The more barriers you can place between the thief and your property the better. A fence is a good start, but having one or two more barriers will often be too much for even the more experienced baddies.
Also, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a covered structure if the gate/door is locked properly with a thick chain and padlock or a similar alternative. Even a basic metal fence with a pad-locked gate will add some extra security to your farm machinery and equipment.
Frustrate the would-be thief with obstacles and they’re more likely to give up or be caught in the act of trying to unlock yet another door.
6. Place a GPS tracker on expensive machinery
GPS trackers can be used on any vehicle and other equipment. Tractors, trucks, combines, regular cars and motorcycles can all be tracked down in case of theft if you have a GPS tracker installed.
7. Keep an equipment inventory
Have a list of all equipment and check if all is there in regular intervals. This is especially important on larger farms with a lot of workers.
Smaller equipment can go unnoticed for longer if you don’t have an inventory, but sooner or later you’ll notice that more and more things are starting to go missing. It’s best to nip the problem in the bud by noticing it sooner rather than later.
8. Small, battery-powered alarms
This is an affordable and quick way to make any machinery safer. Hide a vibration-triggered battery alarm on expensive equipment. If any vibration on the surface occurs (someone tries to move it, climb, hit or unlock it) the alarm will go off.
These alarms usually cost around $10-$15 a piece, some even less. They’re easy to use (on/off switch) and the batteries can last for weeks or months depending on how often you use them.
I also recommend using them on doors and windows if you don’t have a more comprehensive alarm system or you’re not using motion sensor cameras to monitor the area already.
9. Build a tall and strong fence with spikes on top
A tall fence can prevent intruders from even stepping foot on your property. It might be too expensive to encircle a large farm or ranch with a mighty fence. Focus on the areas with cattle and expensive equipment instead. The strength and height of the fence are the two most important factors to consider.
Although even a tall fence might not be tall enough for some thieves who’re used to climbing them. So if you want to take extra precautions, you can also attach barbed wire, spikes or even glass shards on top, which would be too painful to cross over. You can also use anti-climb paint to make the fence slippery.
Keep in mind that there might be legal regulations you’d have to consider when placing any dangerous objects on a fence. The same holds true for an electric fence.
Other than improving the strength and height of a farm fence, you can also invest in an electric fence with an alarm system. And/or install security cameras in strategic positions. As I mentioned before, security cameras with motion sensors can act both as an alarm system, a theft deterrent and as a device for identifying criminals through recordings.
You can check out my article on how to prevent burglars from climbing over a fence for more ideas and affordable upgrades that are purchasable online.
10. Use warning signs and stickers to deter thieves
There are many warning signs you can use. I recommend placing those that you can backup with actual devices. For example, if you have security cameras (or fake ones) installed, place warning signs on the fence and gates stating that the area is under surveillance. If you have a guard dog or you’re ready to use firearms, make that known as well.
A neighborhood watch or farm watch sign is also recommended because you can place it outside of your enclosed property to deter criminals from a larger area.
The efficiency of warning signs for deterring criminals is always debatable. Some will brush it off as empty bluffs, some will become more sneaky, others will not wish to take any chances against your security tactics.
But overall, this is the cheapest deterrent available. You can get a pack of 6 stickers for about $10, so there’s no reason not to include them.
11. Trained guard dog.. or two
Thieves hate guards dogs even according to actual surveys conducted with ex burglars. Over 60% of them claimed that a dog was one of the main reasons they wouldn’t break into a person’s home.
A dog serves as a deterrent and as a natural alarm system. This is true for any dog that is aggressive or doesn’t trust strangers. A docile and meek dog will not be of much help though. If a dog can be bribed with a piece of meat to look the other way, it can even be a disadvantage because you might have a false sense of security.
So having an actual guard dog is the ideal option. A guard dog is one that is purposely trained to tackle intruders and bark like crazy. If the burglar tries to reason with the dog by throwing him a piece of steak, the dog won’t change his attitude towards him. Having a few dogs of this caliber can be an amazing security addition to any ranch, farm and home in general.
12. Always lock the gates when away and at nighttime
Use a thick chain and a padlock unless you have a more sophisticated locking mechanism in place already. But I’ve always found that sticking to the good old locks works the best.
There is no way to bypass or electronically disable a tough padlock. A thief is either going to make a lot of noise to break it or give up on that entrance point altogether.
13. Have a self-defense weapon at hand
Big farms and ranches can leave you isolated and unprotected. If someone were to step inside your property willing to cause harm to you and your family, you probably couldn’t rely on the police or anyone else stepping up to help. At least not immediately.
Having adequate self-protection is a necessity for safety in these fairly isolated rural areas. Whether that’s an actual firearm or a non-lethal self-defense weapon is ultimately your choice and might depend on your State laws.
I recommend always carrying at least a pepper spray. It’s easy to carry and can disable any opponent no matter how tough they are. It can give you enough time to run away or deal further damage on the spot.
14. Don’t leave your gear in areas accessible to thieves
Leaving equipment in the field or outside the fence might seem tempting if you’re tired after a day of hard work. After all, you’ll be using it again in the morning!
Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where you’ll have to rely on self-discipline to not take any unnecessary risks that could put your business in jeopardy.
If you have workers to take care of that it probably isn’t a big issue and make it clear to them that everything needs to be put back in place when they’re done using it.
15. Have an emergency numbers list and phone at hand
Even with security equipment and alert systems, you might find yourself surprised by an intruder on your property.
It’s not an everyday situation after all, so knowing in advance who to call and having the numbers prepared will help you deal with the situation.
Have a list of emergency numbers on your mobile phone. If one doesn’t answer you won’t be standing there thinking who to call next. Some suggestions based on priorities are: police, neighbors and nearby relatives.
16. Raise the security awareness of your workers
Make some rules for your workers and be strict about them. Let them know that you want the gates and all the doors leading to equipment locked after a day of work. Make sure that no equipment is left behind once they’re done with the work.
If you want to minimize the risk of employee theft, I suggest replacing ordinary locks with keyless locks that require a password. You can designate a unique password for different users and see in the records who went inside and when.
If theft occurs during night and only Workers Joe and Steve were opening the door, you’ll be able to narrow down your investigation far more easily.
17. Start a Farm Watch with your neighbors
A Farm Watch or a Ranch Watch includes setting up patrols with your local community to protect the area against intruders.
Many farmers across the country do this as a precaution or after regular bouts of theft. It’s an effective way of reducing crime in the area, at least for a period of time.
18. Mark your equipment and livestock
Owner applied number (OAN) is an FBI-established system that helps return stolen property. It uses a unique 10-digit number, which identifies the state, county and owner of the stolen good. You can stamp this number on any tools and vehicles. It’s a deterrent as well, since thieves generally don’t like to steal items that can be easily identified.
To mark livestock, you can use different methods and marking tools, such as tire branders and ear tattoo kits. These are sold by various vendors and they’re sold online as well.
19. Use a surveillance drone with an on-board camera
A surveillance drone is a powerful security addition especially for large farms and ranches that have an electric fence with alarm system. But also those that have security cameras with motion sensors.
If you receive an alert, you can check the entire area for intruders safely with a surveillance drone instead of putting yourself in harms way or calling the cops immediately.
Perhaps its a wild animal, or it’s an armed burglary and someone is moving through your crops to reach your house undetected. What a surprise it will be when they see your drone live streaming their failed attempt from the sky above.
20. Improve the security of your living space
I’ve written dozens of articles explaining how to improve home security. Some of the best tactics are:
- adding a second lock to doors and windows (for example a door/window barricade)
- installing security film on glass door/windows to make them more force-resistant
- using surveillance cameras and/or alarm system to monitor entrance points
- securing the door hinges (especially in case of outward opening doors)
.. and much more. I recommend checking out the Home Security section of our website to see the best security upgrades for different parts of your home.
21. Hire a security guard
If you have a lucrative business and can afford to hire security professionals, this might be the best option. Even one security guard patrolling the area during nighttime can vastly improve your chances of deterring and catching a criminal.
Farm and ranch theft doesn’t occur immediately. It’s typically a planned process and if the criminals see that the area is monitored by humans, dogs, cameras and other alert systems they’re way less likely to even bother. Why would they, when there are many equally lucrative rural businesses that are easier to rob?
22. Replace brass with plastic pipes on irrigation systems
Metal is always prized, and copper wiring on pivot irrigation is a real thief magnet. You can use a Pivot Alarm which is a solar powered irrigation alarm.
Or you can simply replace brass with plastic pipes. While metal pipes are somewhat better, using plastic pipes is safer from a security angle and they can still get the job done.
23. Stick to the basics and go from there
There are two types of people: those who love new technological solutions and those who’d rather stick to the proven tactics.
Some people love drones, others are just not interested in learning how to fly one. Or setting up cameras and apps that go along with them. Or using complex alarm systems, setting up the wiring through the walls. Or using keyless electronic locks.
If you fall in the camp of technology lovers you have many options at your disposal. But don’t go overboard because you don’t want your entire security strategy to become jeopardized by a simple power shutdown.
On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re a proponent of basic strategies like a good deadbolt lock and a tall fence with barbed wire on top, keep in mind that you’ll still need some technological aid for monitoring a large property.
Even if you hire a security guard, one person cannot monitor a 1800 acre corn and soybean farm by himself. And it’s way cheaper to set up a few cameras than hire more security guards.
So it’s always best to take the middle path. Don’t underestimate the power of a thick chain and a padlock on the main gates. But also don’t shun away new technology that can seriously reduce your costs while improving your security at the same time.
Final Word: Farm Security & Ranch Security
To protect your countryside business from thieves and other intruders can seem like a daunting task. But think of it this way; security is based on three things:
- deterring thieves with warning signs, cameras, dogs, security guards, alarms..
- making it more difficult for them to break in with locks, fencing, tempered glass..
- using cameras and alarms so you can be alerted to their presence and record their activity in case of a break-in attempt
It’s always these three tactics. The only difference between a small and large property is how much you’ll need to use. It’s easier to secure a small house with only one door and one window. But even if the house has 5 doors and 5 windows, those 3 tactics will still be true. You’ll just need to apply them 5 times instead of just once to get the best results.
Point being, you can definitely improve your farm or ranch security by using the before-mentioned methods. And it’s not as big of an investment as it might seem at first. Security cameras and alarm systems are more affordable than ever. There are even commercial drones that cost a few hundred dollars and can be used for surveillance purposes for years.
It’s definitely smarter to invest in security equipment than it is to allow someone to steal equipment that’s way more expensive. You can go all out and maximize your security in a week or a few weeks depending on the size of your property. Or you can focus on the most vulnerable points and build-up from there until you reach maximum security.
Which strategy you should take obviously depends on the risk of theft your property is under, your security budget and the amount of work you’re willing to put in. But if you implement the above mentioned tips you can definitely keep the baddies away from your farm or ranch. Hope this helps!