New technology is helping farmers tackle the costly problem of sheep rustling.
A theft deterrent system was launched on Thursday which sees the animal’s fleece ingrained with thousands of coded microdots which allow it to be traced easily and are virtually impossible to remove.
The team behind TecTracer, which was adapted from technology used to discourage the theft of lead from church roofs, says it is more effective than ear tags or spray paint.
The system identifies the animal and the farm it comes from, incriminating rustlers at random checks carried out at auction markets, abattoirs or on other farms.
Drummond estate near Comrie, Perth and Kinross, which grazes almost 3,000 sheep across the Glenartney Hills, hosted the launch.
David Wallace, from the estate, said: “We’ve experienced first-hand how sneaky and resourceful these criminals can be.
“Sheep rustling is an increasing worry and this system is a valuable tool in our fight against would-be criminals intent on stealing our property and damaging our livelihoods.”
The system has the backing of NFU Scotland, who said a recent case in northern Scotland saw one farmer lose £60,000 worth of livestock overnight.
Jamie Smart, chair of the organisation’s legal and technical committee, said the theft of pedigree animals could have a devastating effect on a farmer’s livelihood.
“They not only lose valuable animals, but possibly the entire bloodline in a stock that has taken years to establish,” he said.
“We have to make thieves realise that sheep are no longer a soft option.”
John Minary, managing director of York-based TecTracer, said: “The simple inclusion of thousands of coded microdots, backed up by our powerful database, provides a multi-layered response that protects sheep on hills and in glens.
“Where traditional ear tags can be removed, the microdots stay within the fleece and this simple preventative step turns the tables on would be thieves, making flocks identifiable and keeping them safe.”