A Scottish farmer is using a revolutionary new marking system in a bid to tackle the growing problem of sheep theft.
Drummond Estate near Comrie in Perthshire - which grazes nearly 3,000 sheep across the Glenartney Hills - uses the TecTracer theft-deterrent system.
It is 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.
Farmer 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."
Mr Wallace added: "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."
'Years to establish'
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.
He highlighted 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," Mr Smart 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."
TecTracer uses thousands of coded microdots, backed up by a powerful database, which 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 preventative step turns the tables on would be thieves, making flocks identifiable and keeping them safe.