A NEW marking system aimed at stemming the rising tide of sheep rustling in North Yorkshire is being trialled on a Moors farm near Castleton.

TecTracer has been developed by York-based Trace-in-Metal, which pioneered a ground-breaking marking system to protect church roofs from lead thieves, and has now adapted its use for safeguarding livestock, in particular sheep.

And if the trial is successful the TecTracer team are to join forces with police to launch “Operation Bo Peep” which will see the system rolled out region-wide.

TecTracer ingrains thousands of coded markers into the sheep’s fleece and once attached to the animal’s coat, it is then easy to identify one that has been marked, and which farm it originated from.

Together with signs advertising the system positioned around farm buildings and fields - combined with an electronic alert early warning system- its developers hope it will be such a deterrent as to render the animals virtually theft proof.

TecTracer director John Minary, a former police detective, said: “Sheep stealing is a major problem for the whole of the UK, but in recent years the North-East has been particularly hard hit."

Farmer Jonathan Murray, who is trialling thesystem on his flock of 180 sheep, 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."