New figures revealed by insurance group NFU Mutual show the cost of farm thefts went up 15% in 2013 compared to £3.4m total in 2012.UFU President Ian Marshall said: "The rural crime figures published today indicate that this is a major issue which must be dealt with head on."The unfortunate reality is that farmers are having valuable livestock and machinery stolen on a regular basis which is having a devastating impact on their businesses and families."The cost of livestock theft in particular has risen by a staggering 25% across the UK as thieves target sheep and cattle, making 2013 one of the worst years on record."Furthermore, a surge in cattle and sheep rustling in Northern Ireland has ranked us as the most seriously affected part of the UK for livestock theft.He added: "These statistics however won't shock farmers who know from experience that theft from farm yards and livestock from fields is an all-too common and costly occurrence."Mr Marshall stressed the importance for all farmers to be vigilant and to take the necessary precautions to ensure tools, machinery, livestock, equipment and property are secure."The UFU continue to work closely with the PSNI on this important issue and have stressed repeatedly that more needs to be done to ensure consistency across Northern Ireland," he added.A major rural crime conference organised by UFU will be held at the Crumlin Road Gaol on the 4 November.