A new sheep-marking system is being trialled in North Yorkshire in a bid to tackle the issue of sheep rustling.
The TecTracer system is adapted from technology used to protect church roofs from lead thieves. It ingrains thousands of coded markers into the sheep’s fleece.
It is being piloted on farms in North Yorkshire.
Once these markers are applied to the animal’s fleece, it is easy to identify any sheep that has been marked, and which farm it originated from.
If an animal is stolen, an early warning system swings into action alerting the police, other farms, abattoirs and livestock auctions.
Livestock rustling remains a huge problem, with costs high in the North East, Northern Ireland and the South West of England.
At a total cost to the UK of £2.9 million, 70 per cent came from these three regions alone.
John Minary, Tectracer director told ITV News: "Sheep stealing is a major problem for the whole of the UK, but in recent years the North East has been particularly hard hit.
"We have been working closely with North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce and the farming community, and TecTracer is now being piloted on farms in North Yorkshire.
"Once the microdots have been applied to a fleece, the unique identifying numbers are then uploaded to a database.
"And, if an animal is stolen, our early warning system then swings into action alerting the police, other farms, abattoirs and livestock auctions.
"By having sheep protected by TecTracer it will certainly make would-be thieves think twice before contemplating stealing them."
Farmer Jonathan Murray said: "As a livestock farmer, sheep rustling is an increasing worry, that’s why I’m more than happy to help trial TecTracer here on my farm.
"A lot of farmers feel quite isolated and criminals are becoming more resourceful, we therefore need to ensure we are equipped with the latest assets to deter thieves from stealing our property and potentially ruining our livelihoods."