Sheep rustling incidents spike in North Yorkshire

With a spike in sheep rustling incidents in North Yorkshire, we take a look at the issue and the preventative measures that can be used to tackle it.

Since March this year, thefts amounting to over 200 sheep have made the news, with farms in Ingleton, Hardacre and Harrogate all hit.

This continuing crime is gaining traction with organised gangs, who can take tens of thousands of pounds worth of livestock in one go.

Neville and Phillip Raine made the news last year after they profited from the use of over 100 sheep from neighbouring farms. A former champion breeder of Swaledale sheep, Neville and his nephew Phillip were sentenced to three years each after sheep from 14 farms around County Durham were found on the farm belonging to Neville, run by Phillip.

Chris Clement, Farm Account Executive at McClarrons, noted that the nature of sheep and how they’re kept makes it very difficult to keep them truly secure,

“Sheep are always vulnerable to theft, as they’re kept in open fields and are easy to move.” Chris said.

“It’s not like a small paddock you can surround with mesh fencing or a barn that can be monitored with CCTV. We’d always encourage clear marking and for farmers to join their local Farmwatch scheme, but those measures can only offer so much protection.”

But there is hope for farmers in the form of new technology.

North Yorkshire Police are trialling technology to manage the recent spike in sheep thefts. Embedded into the animal’s fleece, the TecTracer uses coded markers to alert the police and nearby farms if the sheep is stolen.

The technology has been adapted from that which is used to protect church roofs from lead thieves, and stays put even if the sheep is sheared. A tag, on the other hand, can be cut out and replaced, so the sheep can’t be traced to the farm from which it was stolen.

Hornburn provides a method of identification which works for some breeds, as even those who’ve had the hornburn identification ground out will be left with a distinctive mark, that will help identify them as potentially stolen.

But technology offers a more proactive approach by reuniting owners with their herd, and could even help prevent thefts in the first place, as Chris explains,

“If this technology becomes widespread and more rustlers receive convictions as a result, we’d hope that it would act as a pretty strong deterrent in the future. Sheep rustling can be financially and emotionally devastating, and while we can obviously offer support with insurance, it would be far better for our clients not to go through such ordeals in the first place.” 

Contact McClarrons Farm Team to discuss any element of your farm insurance. Call 01748 850250 or email

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