Fourteen stolen pregnant ewes have been safely returned to their Cumbrian farm thanks to a revolutionary marking system, developed by Trace-in-Metal Ltd and marketed as TecTracer™.

Hill farmer Pip Simpson, a victim of previous livestock thefts, turned to TecTracer to help protect his flock from criminals targeting isolated farms across the county.

(Pictured: Hill Farmer Pip Simpson marking his flock with TecTracer Forensic Sheep Paint, watched on by partner Molly Towers, Troutbeck, Cumbria.)

TecTracer™– a forensic sheep tracing system has been developed by John Minary, a former senior police detective, and a Swedish ballistics expert - uses raddles to ingrain thousands of coded markers into a sheep’s fleece, “marking” them with a unique identifying code which makes it easy to trace which farm the sheep originated from.

Together with signs advertising the TecTracer™ identification process positioned around farm buildings and fields – and combined with an e-alert early warning system linked to the police, farms, abattoirs and auction houses – the system has been dubbed “Operation Bo Beep!”

It is now being used by many farmers across the North of England as the front line in crime prevention.

As soon as Mr Simpson discovered the loss of the 14 ewes, worth £2,500, he alerted the TecTracer team who immediately swung into action. The sheep were soon returned under cover of darkness, but to a different field.

Mr Minary said: “Over the years, Pip has been one of the many victims of rural crime, having his livestock stolen by targeted criminals.

“The financial anxiety of having his sheep stolen led him to take extreme measures, including dying his entire flock orange. This, however, was only a temporary solution, as the dye soon came out resulting in Pip turning to TecTracer™.

“The point of TecTracer™ is to make livestock too hot handle. In this case, the thieves clearly realised soon after taking the ewes that with our network of contacts from police to local farms, paired with the unique marking and the social media coverage, the only option was to return the ewes.”

He added: “The system brings a step change in the fight against the pernicious crime. Ear tags can be cut out, but TecTracer™ remains within the fleece, effectively identifying the sheep.

“It’s fantastic to see the TecTracer technology fulfilling its purpose and protecting hard-working farmers like Pip from losing money to sheep theft.”

Mr Simpson said: “I am absolutely over the moon at the effectiveness of the TecTracer system. Had I not protected my flock with it I fear I would never have seen them again.

“It is always distressing to wake up to find livestock missing, but by having the TecTracer marking we know the sheep are easily traceable. It is a huge deterrent!

“With policing pressures that is seeing fewer and fewer patrols, farmers need to be able to protect themselves and their property from criminals. TecTracer™ is one effective weapon in the fight against sheep theft.”

Farming Life

Editors Note: The principle behind this success is the same for the indelible marking of lead, in that the asset can be readilly identified and traced back to source. Marking lead with Trace-in-Metal produces the same deterrent and the irrefutible evidence of ownership. Trace-in-Metal makes stolen lead, too hot to handle.