An Oswaldtwistle farmer has spoken of his devastation after rustlers stole a field full of sheep worth more than £17,000.
The flock totalling 271 sheep, ewes and lambs was snatched from a field off Market Street, in Edenfield.
Police believe they were stolen to order by a gang using a truck in an overnight raid.
Farmer William Holden, 50, said he felt ‘gutted’.
Mr Holden, who runs Higher Bold Venture Farm in Oswaldtwistle with his two sons and is insured, also owns the field in Edenfield where the flock was kept.
He said: "Sheep are our livelihood. Whoever did it knew all about handling sheep.
"You couldn’t round that number up and drive them all away without knowing what you are doing."
Police believe the Texal sheep were herded into a large vehicle from a pen in the field.
The theft is thought to have taken place between May 10 and 13.
Sgt Ben Hodgkinson, of Lancashire Police, said: "The offenders must have been well prepared and used a large vehicle to commit this offence.
"It is also likely that they knew how to handle the sheep, which would mean they had knowledge of animal husbandry.
"I would ask anyone who saw anything in respect of the theft of the sheep, or anyone who has any other information that might assist in their recovery, to contact us."
Lynn Scott, who owns Fishrake Farm, based across from where the sheep were stolen, said: "I’m shocked. I’ve never heard anythign like it.
"It just doesn’t happen around here. Luckily we haven’t had a lot to do with sheep or it could have been us.
"We just have horses, here, around 20 of them. They would be brave to come and steal them," she added.
The National Farmers’ Union said cases of sheep rustling were increasing due to soaring lamb prices.
NFU spokesman Carl Hudspith said lamb prices per kilogram have risen in 12 months from £2.70 to £4.40.
He described the raid as unique and said: "There has not been anything like this before. It is very much out of the ordinary.
"Rustling has been increasing due to rising prices available for dead and live weight lamb at abattoirs and at auction houses.
"There has been a dramatic rise in prices because there are less farmers producing lamb."
Mr Hudspith said the sheep would be marked and tagged making them difficult to be sold at auction.
Police, however, fear they might be for sale on the black market.
"We believe that this livestock has been stolen to order but it will be a completely different task to get any money for them because traceability in this country is second to none," added Mr Hudspith.
"The thieves have obviously got an outlet somewhere."
Police believe the sheep could be anywhere in the country. Rustling has previously been reported this year in nearby Burnley and Clitheroe.
Anyone with information should call police on 08451 253 545 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.