IN an exercise that brings a whole new meaning to the term branding, a farmer is using his sheep to advertise a business venture.

Enterprising James Metcalfe, from Dalton, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, has turned his flock into living advertising by painting the logos of a local company onto them.

Oblivious to their new commercial status, the sheep continue to munch happily on grass while expounding the benefits of local turf company Tyas Turf.

“Because our fields are next to the A1, it’s difficult to get planning permission for things like billboards because it might be a distraction for drivers,” said Mr Metcalfe, a tenant farmer.

“So we thought putting the company advert on the sheep would be a bit of fun. Sheep marker comes in spray cans, so it’s quite easy to do.”

Mr Metcalfe made a stencil with the company logo, then sprayed it onto newly-shorn sheep.

The spray-on ink is traditionally used by farmers to safely mark their animals so they can identify them.

But it is thought this is the first time the ink has been used to create adverts out of livestock.

So far, only 20 sheep at the farm, which belongs to the Middleton Tyas estate, near Richmond, have been used for advertising.

Mr Metcalfe – who partowns Tyas Turf, which sells topsoil and turf – said he is unsure if he will expand his advertising flock.

“I’m not sure if we’d let other companies advertise on our sheep as I had to twist the shepherd’s arm to paint these 20 tups,” he said.

Flocks of sheep have been used for advertising stunts before.

In October last year, sheep were dyed tartan and set out to graze on specially-laid turf in Savile Row, in London, in a bid by the Campaign for Wool to highlight the wool price crisis.

And in 2009, a group of Welsh sheep farmers became an internet sensation for adding coats containing LED lights to the back of their sheep and then herding the flocks into amazing shapes on a mountain side.

The viral advertising stunt attracted more than a million internet users in the first four days it was released.