Cornish Mutual has been advised of an increase in sheep worrying incidents in the South West. Over the spring, around 15million ewes across the UK will give birth. This is an extremely busy time for farmers as they need to be on hand day and night to keep a close eye on ewes and deal with any problems.
Sadly, lambing season can trigger an increase in sheep worrying incidents. The effects of livestock worrying can be far reaching. Not only can ewes be killed, injured or lose their unborn lambs, affected animals can become frightened of other dogs, causing issues for farmers who rely on working dogs. Of course, animals cannot tell farmers about their injuries and something minor can become serious if it is left untreated.
Anyone whose dog chases livestock on farm land is committing the offence of livestock worrying. So, what can farmers do about the problem?
Reducing the risk of sheep worrying on your farm
At Cornish Mutual we always advise farmers to first of all look at how they can reduce the risk of sheep worrying happening in the first place. There are three options that farmers can consider:
1. Remove livestock from rights of way
Some farmers choose to move livestock into fields away from public footpaths. If you do this, it is important to check that fencing is in good condition to keep livestock in. While this can be the best way of preventing sheep worrying, it is of course not possible on some farms, for example when sheep are grazing on open moorland.
2. Request signage
Signage is a good way of informing dog walkers that there is livestock on your land. Farmers are not legally allowed to put up ‘No Entry’ signs on a public right of way. We advise farmers to request official signage from their local Police. This is better than making your own signs because the wording on the official signs will have been checked to ensure it complies with the law.
3. Separate off footpaths from livestock
If you have a public right of way through a field where livestock is grazing, it is worth considering separating off the footpath. This could involve erecting a fence, if the footpath runs along the edge of the field. Other farmers simply put up way marking signs to encourage walkers to stick to footpaths, which can help keep them away from livestock.
Report livestock worrying incidents to the dog owner and the Police
Anyone who witnesses a dog out of control, or an attack on livestock should report the incident to the Police by calling 101.
The issue of livestock worrying is covered in the Animals Act 1971, which is a complex piece of legislation. While it gives farmers rights to protect their livestock, in some circumstances landowners can be held liable for killing or injuring a dog. This is partly dependent on whether or not the farmer had previously reported the dog to the Police for sheep worrying.
It is important that farmers report any livestock worrying incidents to the Police and, ideally, to the dog owner. While farmers do occasionally have to resort to killing or injuring a dog to protect their livestock, the law gives more protection if they have previously reported the dog for sheep worrying.
Keep your dog under control around livestock
The Police advise that all dogs are on a lead when around livestock. If you are out walking near livestock, particularly during lambing season, it is important to keep your dogs on a lead. The exception is if you are approached by cattle: dog owners are then advised to let their dogs off the lead and get themselves out of the field to avoid being injured.
By Arthur Denton, Member Services Advisor at Cornish Mutual