Wales showed the biggest increase in rural crime last year rising by more than 40 per cent last year to £1.9m, according to the UK's largest agricultural insurer.

NFU Mutual said some farmers were now resorting to "medieval" security measures to protect their property.

Trends include more thefts of all-terrain vehicles, quad bikes, tools, small tractors and livestock, it said.

The insurer said the cost of rural crime went up most sharply in Wales in 2017, compared with the rest of the UK.

Dyfed-Powys Police launched its first unit aimed at specifically tackling rural crime earlier this year.

It currently consists of two officers covering Ceredigion, but the force hopes to bolster the unit to cover a wider area in the future.

North Wales Police has had a rural crime team in place since September 2013.

Tim Price, the rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “There’s no doubt that rural crime has changed massively in the last decade.

“Ten years ago it was largely unstructured, stealing from the next village, trying to sell it at a car boot sale. Now we are seeing organised criminals who have links to drugs and the county lines issues, money laundering, even in some cases, human trafficking.

"Farmers and country people are turning to history books to re-purpose security measures from medieval times.

These include cutting deep ditches, and erecting earth banks and stockade fences, to protect valuable machinery and livestock.

More technology is also being used to deter crime, including CCTV cameras and tracking devices.