Livestock worrying spring 2021


Please keep dogs on a lead when walking in the countryside near livestock.

The campaign seeks to highlight the impact of livestock worrying, ensuring that dog owners who live in or walk their dogs in the countryside act responsibly and keep their dogs under close control.

The worrying of livestock can have devastating consequences for farm animals and for farmers and their businesses and this campaign is being launched to coincide with the spring lambing period because this is when sheep are at greatest risk.


What is sheep worrying?

A dog being at large – chasing (running around uncontrolled in a field)

Attacking (mauling, biting, nipping)

All of these cause distress to the sheep. A pregnant ewe being chased excessively will miscarry from the trauma of running for a long time (dogs can run a lot further and longer than sheep)   For Sheep that have already lambed it can separate the lamb from the Ewe which can cause the Ewe to reject the lamb, this causes the death of the lamb through malnutrition/exposure in a very short space of time. Mauling/biting can lead to significant injury and often leads to the sheep being killed or destroyed by the vet later.

Such attacks have a massive emotional impact on the farmer and are avoidable if dog owners follow some simple steps.

 “Livestock worrying can occur when a dog attacks, chases or in the case of sheep, is at large (not on a lead or otherwise under close control) in a field where livestock is kept. 

The devastating effects of a dog attack are evident and cannot be overstated but significant damage can also be caused by a dog simply being present in a field. Pregnant ewes can abort their lambs or lambs can be separated from their mothers, causing distress and in some cases malnutrition.

The advice to anyone walking and exercising their dogs in the countryside is to ensure that they are under control at all times and avoid going into fields where livestock is grazing – if your passing through a field of sheep on a public footpath or right of way, keep your dog on a short lead at all times and do not allow it to bark uncontrollably. 

If you’re walking through a field of cattle it is recommended to walk around the outside fenced edge of the field and if you are pursued by the cattle only then should you release your dog and stay close to the fence.

Those who use the countryside for recreation and farmers are urged to report all incidents of livestock worrying to police or call 999 in an emergency.

Tim Johnston, Manx NFU President, said: Manx NFU is extremely concerned by the growing issue of livestock worrying across many areas. We have had over 60 reported cases in the last 3 years varying from individual attacks to events where farmers have lost an entire flock in a single episode. There have been a number of instances recently where the losses suffered by farmers have been substantial, both in terms of emotional impact and financial costs.

“At this time of year when lambing and spring calving is underway, instances are particularly keenly felt. In some areas the public has a right of responsible access across green lanes and public rights of way, being responsible they should ensure that they are familiar with what is expected of them.

“We may not think our family pet is capable of causing injury, but it is a dog’s natural instinct to chase, so think ahead when you’re out for your walk, about what might tempt your dog to run off, and ensure you keep them under proper control”.  

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