Scottish farmers fight back against sheep rustlers

Published 08 November 2018

Scottish farmers are marking National Rural Crime Day by using a revolutionary new marking system in a bid to tackle the problem of sheep theft.

Drummond Estate near Comrie in Perthshire - which grazes nearly 3,000 sheep across the Glenartney Hills - hosted the launch today (November 8, 2018) of the TecTracer theft-deterrent system, which was adapted from technology used to discourage the theft of lead from church roofs. By ingraining thousands of coded microdot markers into each sheep's fleece, the system easily identifies the animal and which farm it comes from, incriminating rustlers at random checks carried out at auction markets, abattoirs or on other farms.

John McKenzie, Chief Superintendent, Police Scotland and Chair of the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime added "This is a fantastic example of partnership working to tackle an aspect of rural crime that can impact on farming communities throughout Scotland.  In reducing opportunities for criminality, we will be both creative and innovative as SPARC recognises the impact of crime in rural communities.  People living, working or wanting to enjoy rural communities should have confidence in our drive to make a difference and tackle rural crime in all its forms."

John Minary, Managing Director of TecTracer said, “For the first time we are bringing microdot technology to the fight against sheep theft. 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.

“We are delighted to be working with Police Scotland and Drummond Estates to introduce this ground-breaking technology into Scotland.”

David Wallace, of the Drummond Estate, said that several incidents of sheep rustling on their upland grazing had proved costly.

He said: "We've experienced first-hand how sneaky and resourceful these criminals can be and we're delighted to host the Scottish launch of a system which we believe can help farmers fight back.  The remote and isolated nature of much of Scotland's sheep grazing land and hill farms means thieves can operate unseen when they target flocks. By marking our animals with Tec Tracer we at least have some chance of getting them back.

"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."

Jamie Smart, Legal and Technical Committee Chairman of NFU Scotland explained that the loss of pedigree animals from a flock could have a devastating effect on a sheep farmer highlighting a recent case in northern Scotland where one farmer lost £60,000 worth of livestock overnight.

"They not only lose valuable animals, but possibly the entire bloodline in a stock that has taken years to establish," Jamie explained. "We have to make thieves realise that sheep are no longer a soft option - with the TecTracer system operational, they should now be viewed as too hot to handle."

Karen Ramoo, Policy Advisor, Scottish Land & Estates added: “This is an excellent example of new technology which can deliver for Scotland’s farms and land businesses. Police, government and sector organizations have been working hard in recent years to reduce crime in our most remote rural areas and advances such as TecTracer should make criminals think twice about targeting livestock. We hope many farms will examine how this can help to protect their flocks which are so important both emotionally and in business terms.”

Ensuring those living and working in rural communities and environments have confidence that any crime related issues affecting them are taken seriously, acted upon and understood is a key priority for SPARC, which is made up of key industry stakeholders including Police Scotland, NFU Scotland, NFU Mutual and Scottish Land and Estates.


Contact Details

Call 101 for non-emergencies and general enquiries, in an emergency call 999. If you have information about a crime you can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


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