With large numbers of families expected to take their pets for walks in the countryside during February half-term, NFU Mutual has launched a campaign urging dog owners to keep their pets under control whenever farm animals could be nearby.
Between January and April 2017, when pregnant ewes and new born lambs are often grazing on low-lying pasture in areas more accessible to walkers, the average cost of claims to NFU Mutual more than doubled compared to the rest of the year.
The campaign follows data which shows that livestock worrying costs have increased by 67% in the last two years (2015-2017) with an estimated cost to agriculture of £1.6m.
See also: Download our dog walking poster here
Their research1 shows that over 80% of dog owners exercise their pets in the countryside, with over 60% letting them roam off the lead. Almost 7% of owners admitted that their pets had chased livestock in the past.
NFU Mutual is advising farmers to check their stock regularly, put up warning signs and to ask local people to report any sightings of out-of-control dogs to a local farmer or the police.
NFU livestock board chairman and livestock farmer Charles Sercombe (pictured above) said: “Livestock worrying and dog attacks have a massive impact on farmers, both financially and emotionally.
“Farmers look after over 70% of the UK’s countryside and many public footpaths go through our land, so it’s vital that we establish measures to ensure both livestock and dogs are kept safe.
“Livestock worrying needs to be treated as a recordable crime; dog owners must be given consistent information and act accordingly, farmers must report all incidents and the police must take them seriously.
“We understand that owners must exercise their dogs, but measures need to be taken to prevent unnecessary suffering for our livestock.”
Tim Price, Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Attacks by dogs are one of livestock farmers’ worst nightmares, In addition to the suffering to the animals, attacks can have a severe financial impact. Insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, but there is a knock-on effect on farm profits when pregnant sheep chased by dogs lose lambs.
“While attacks can be caused by dogs ranging from the smallest pampered pets to the largest, fierce-looking animals, we are hearing that large husky breeds are involved in a lot of the recent cases.
“We are also getting reports that many attacks are being caused by dogs which have been let out in owners’ gardens and escaped to worry sheep in neighbouring fields.
“As the insurer of nearly three-quarters of the UK’s farmers and many hobby farmers, we understand the heartbreak and huge financial loss that dog attacks cause.”
National and regional breakdown of the costs of claims reported to NFU Mutual:
Country or Region
Grand Total 2
1Petbuzz Market Research surveyed 1002 UK pet owners from Thursday 25 January-Thursday 1 February 2018.
2Grand total rounded to nearest £10,000.