The public are being urged to keep dogs on a lead at all times during the autumn half term holidays as farmers report a rise in livestock worrying incidents.
With more families still choosing to stay in the UK for an autumn break this year, there are concerns that a spike in devastating attacks could once again be experienced.
The issue of livestock worrying by dogs is a significant problem for the sheep sector, often resulting in injuries and even death of affected animals.
During the autumn months, stress on ewes can also inhibit them from becoming pregnant at this important sheep breeding time.
Figures show that the cost of livestock worrying increased by over 10% to £1.3m last year as the pandemic saw a surge in people visiting the countryside.
A recent survey by the National Sheep Association (NSA) shows the continued increase year-on-year of these attacks, underlining the significant emotional cost experienced by farmers.
With the autumn school half term holidays fast approaching, the industry body is reminding the public to ensure dogs are on a lead at all times.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “You may not consider your dog capable of chasing and attacking sheep but it is an instinctive response and the stress and injury it can lead to can be absolutely shocking.
“Look out for signs indicating where livestock may be present but if you are in any way unsure whether sheep could be near or not then keep your dog on a lead and under control.
"Not only are you putting sheep at risk by failing to do this but also potentially the welfare of your own animal.”
As well as highlighting the issue to dog owners, farmers are also being encouraged to ensure their signage around farm requesting dogs be kept on leads is easy to view.
To help with this the NSA has a range of graphics for farmers and others to display that are available to download online.