The NFU is reminding dog owners and walkers to be vigilant and responsible when out in the countryside this bank holiday weekend.
The call comes in the wake of several fatalities involving walkers being trampled by cows, while incidents of sheep worrying are on the rise with the NFU Mutual reporting more than 200 separate cases last year; an increase of six per cent on the previous year.
The NFU is setting out simple do’s and don’ts for members of the public as part of its successful Love your Countryside campaign, with advice and guidance on how to keep people and livestock safe.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said it was important that dogs were kept under control.
“Spring is a lovely time to go walking with your dog in the countryside, but it is also a time to be aware of your surroundings,” said Mr Sercombe. “This is a working environment so please be sympathetic especially to those animals rearing their young and give them space.
“When walking with dogs in fields with livestock, the advice is to keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead and not to hang onto your dog if you feel threatened – let it go as the animals will chase the dog, allowing you to stay out of harm’s way. Dogs usually run faster than livestock and this allows the dog to get to safety.
“Remember that our animals are our livelihood and we can’t risk having them distressed, hurt or killed by dogs with irresponsible owners. So, back British farming by following a few simple do’s and don’ts. ”
Another growing problem facing farmers across the country is Neospora – a virulent parasite found in dogs’ faeces and, if they foul grazing land and pregnant cattle ingest the parasite, it will cause them to abort or give birth to calves infected for life. Neospora can also infect sheep causing them to abort too. So the most responsible thing for dog walkers to do is to pick it up in the countryside, bag it and bin it.
Mr Sercombe said: “This is a real issue, especially for those farms which attract dozens of walkers on a daily basis walking their dogs and who don’t clean up after them. Dogs are a primary host for the parasite and while cattle infection can circulate within a herd via vertical transmission, naïve cattle grazing on pastures contaminated by infected dog faeces can become susceptible. Just one incident of a cow eating some of the parasite eggs
can have a huge impact on a whole herd.
“This is about better information for the public - dog owners must be made aware of the problems that occur. Those using agricultural land to exercise their dogs should do so responsibly and clean up after their animals to avoid the spread of this disease in livestock.”