A Surrey farmer has revealed the devastating impact of litter and dog waste on the health of his cows and calves.
Mark Frost, a tenant farmer at Norbury Park, is struggling particularly with Neopsora, a parasite-type organism that can infect cattle.
While countryside access has been a welcome reprieve for many over the past year, this increased footfall has led to a higher amount of dog waste and litter.
Dog waste can contain Neopsora, and if left on a field, a cow may come into contact with it either whilst grazing or when the grass is harvested.
The disease can potentially cause cows to miscarry their calves or cause them to be born with neurological problems.
Mr Frost has calculated that on a yearly basis the disease is now costing his business between £7,000 and £8,000.
He said up to a quarter of the herd had been infected with Neopsora following an 'unprecedented year'.
“Because of public access, we have always had to deal with some cases (of Neopsora). This has been about 5% in the past," he explained.
“My father has been farming here for 42 years, and this is the most worrying time we’ve seen in that period."
Mr Frost added: "If this carries on it could have huge implications – we could get to the point where we can’t carry on.
“So please pick up your waste and take it home.”
Surrey County Council echoed this, calling on the public to 'respect' the countryside and farmers' businesses.
Even if a dog is healthy and up to date with vaccinations, it can still carry Neopsora without their owners knowing.
Steve Mitchell, the council's countryside access and operations manager said: “Last year we have seen huge increases in the amount of visitors to our countryside sites.
“Whilst this access is really important and those sites have been invaluable, there are knock-on effects.
“Please come to Surrey’s wonderful countryside, but please respect it and understand the implications of what you might do.
“Minimise the impact of your visit and particularly, take your dog waste home.”