Craven farmer joins crime fighting campaign to stamp out sheep rustling

Craven farmer Gill McGarrell marking her flock with the TecTracer marking system

A Barnoldswick farmer is the first in the Craven area to sign up to a new crime fighting initiative aimed at stemming the rising tide of livestock thefts.

Gill McGarrell – a victim of rural crime herself – has joined Operation Bo Peep!, a scheme spearheaded by former senior police detective, John Minary, which centres around sheep being “protected” by a revolutionary marking system.

Together with signs advertising the TecTracer identification process positioned around farm buildings and fields – combined with an e-alert early warning system linked to the police, farms, abattoirs and auction houses – Mr Minary and his team believe these will be such a deterrent as to render the animals virtually theft proof.

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.

Following the successful completion of a trial at hill farm near Whitby, the TecTracer team, with the backing of North Yorkshire Police, are rolling out Operation Bo Peep! Region-wide.

Whilst Trace-in-Metal uses ballistics to fire thousands of microdots into metal sheets “marking” them with a unique identifying code, TecTracer uses raddles to ingrain thousands of coded markers into the sheep’s fleece.

Once attached to the animal’s coat, it is extremely easy to identify any sheep that has been TecTracer-marked, and which farm it originated from.

According to the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2016, livestock rustling remains a huge problem, with costs stubbornly high in Northern Ireland and the North East and South West of England. At a total cost to the UK of £2.9 million, 70 per cent came from these three regions alone.

Insurance claims showed that in Yorkshire alone the cost of rural crime last year was £3.6m, £100,000 more than in 2015.

And whilst in 2015 equine crime is down by a quarter, the cost of livestock theft has risen by seven per cent.

Last month alone 60 lambs were taken from the Lofthouse area, whilst ten were stolen from a farm on the edge of Harrogate, at Beckwithshaw.

One sheep farmer from Barnoldswick was recently quoted as saying that sheep rustling was a “hellish problem”.

TecTracer director, John Minary said: “TecTracer was only officially launched a month ago, but the response to it has been phenomenal.

“We have been working closely with North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce and the farming community during our pilot scheme, and we are now being contacted by famers across the region eager to learn more about TecTracer and Operation Bo Peep!

“Once the TecTracer 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.”

Mrs McGarrell said: “Sheep theft is a constant worry and, as the thieves become more brazen and resourceful, we need to ensure we have the weapons in our armoury to fight back!

“We have been the victims of sheep theft ourselves, and by having our sheep protected by TecTracer, we believe it will make would-be thieves think twice before contemplating stealing them.”

Mr Minary added: “The overall intention of Operation Bo Peep! is to make North Yorkshire a sheep theft free zone.

“It will provide reassurance to rural communities, and, by imposing a preventative ‘cocoon’ around farms and moorland, it will ceate a deterrent to organised and opportunist criminals.”

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