Farmers and police are keeping a lookout for rustlers after 15 lambs worth £50 apiece were rounded up and stolen from a field.

They disappeared from one of Neville Nixon's pastures at Village Farm in Hunderthwaite near Barnard Castle, Co Durham.

The Texel cross animals were grazing with around 300 others on land that is down a lane and out of sight of Mr Nixon's farmhouse.

He said yesterday, "The thieves must have put down a couple of hurdles to make it easier to round up the lambs and load them onto a lorry.

"I discovered the theft when I moved the lambs and counted them. It is possible for one or two sheep to go astray at times, but when 15 vanish at one time it has to be theft."

All the lambs bore plastic tags identifying them as his, but he said the thieves could easily cut them off, and may by now have put them in with other flocks.

He and other farmers in the locality are now keeping an extra watch on their flocks, especially those in isolated fields, in case the rustlers return.

Police and farm watch volunteers are also keeping a special watch on vehicle movements in that part of Teesdale.

Anyone with information about the lambs is being asked to call police on 01833-637328.