Reported livestock thefts decreased slightly in 2020 compared to the year before, but police say farmers need to remain vigilant.
Data from the Crime Statistics Agency revealed that over the last five calendar years, 2016 had the lowest number of stock stolen, with a total of 160 thefts or burglary offences.
This increased to 221 in 2017, then 255 in 2018 before peaking at 277 in 2019.
Livestock theft decreased slightly in 2020, down to 249 offences.
Strathbogie saw a significant jump in the number of offences where livestock were stolen, with 20 reported cases last year.
This was up from eight in 2019 and 13 in 2018.
The Southern Grampians also saw an increase, with 17 offences last year compared to 15 the year before.
Corangamite jumped to 15 offences in 2020 compared to seven in both 2019 and 2018.
In contrast, only four offences were recorded in Golden Plains in 2020, down from 12 in 2019 and nine in 2018.
Glenelg recorded seven last year, down from 10 in 2019 and eight in 2018.
Moira also recorded a decrease, with six offences in 2020 compared to 11 in 2019.
Sheep made up 136 head of the 230 head of livestock stolen in 2020, which represented a value of $1,489,943.
This was a decrease on 2019, where 170 head of sheep valued at $1,738,486 were stolen.
In 2018, 177 head of sheep were reported stolen but the overall value was less, at $1,363,998.
Cattle thefts in 2020 increased to 70 head, up from 56 in 2019 and 49 in 2018, to a total value of $432,600.
This was a big rise on the total value stolen in 2019, at $284,150, but a drop from $625,500 in 2018.
Victoria Police farm crime liaison officer Senior Sergeant Jason Hullick said the drop last year could be related to the pandemic lockdowns and the fact that people were at home more.
He said while stock prices could be a motivation for people, most thefts were opportunistic.
"People who are motivated to steal livestock will look at properties, they'll keep an eye on cattle movements," he said.
"Certainly if they identify something that's close to a set of yards or in set of yards... they'll wait for an opportunity to do it."
He said producers should try and avoid keeping small lots of livestock near yards and also try to secure their yards where possible.
"They will look for an opportunistic target, they will look for an easy target," he said.
"We find that smaller lots tend to go missing more than larger, because it's easier for them to move, they don't need large trucks to do it.
"Cattle that are easy to get to a set of yards, or stock yards that are easily accessible or not secure tend to be an easier target for thieves as well."
In 2020, 196 of the 249 cases involving livestock theft were not solved.
Senior Sergeant Hullick said fewer cattle had brands nowadays and ear tags could be removed, making it hard to track stock once they had been stolen.
"We really rely on the public and the farmers to keep an eye out for their stock and machinery, and each other," he said.
"If they see something suspicious with stock movement, please report it.
"It certainly helps us with intelligence to track down stolen stock if we see that there's movements of stock that are unusual."
Buyers should also be aware, he said.
"If they buy stock and they have multiple holes in their ears, that can be a sign as well that stock has changed hands a number of times," he said.