A Saintfield farmer has backed the UFU in its call to keep dogs under control in the lambing season.
As the Christmas break approaches the Ulster Farmers’ Union is urging people bringing dogs into the countryside to behave responsibly by making sure their pets do not disturb or attack livestock.
Rowallene Councillor Robert Burgess, himself a farmer, has backed the UFU call for owners to keep their pets under control near livestock. He said: “My farm is just on the outskirts of Saintfield. I farm sheep and at this time of year when they are just about to produce lambs, the last thing any farmer wants is a loose dog attacking them.
“It seems that these dogs are attracted by the odour the sheep gives off at the lambing period. When they chase the sheep, the unborn lamb is turned around inside the ewe and this causes complications and often fatalities in the medium term. The lambing season gets under way coming up to Christmas and in fact a neighbour already has sheep that have lambed.
“Farmers don’t get any compensation for losses due to dog worrying. It is concerning that some people all over the country just seem to kick their dogs out in the morning to do the toilet and they can cover a great distance in a short time and be home again, the owner being oblivious to where they have been or what damage they have been doing to the flocks.
“I have had occasion to shoot a dog. This is something I hate to do but when faced with a choice of allowing them to cause serious harm to my livestock, I have little choice in the matter.
“Over the lambing period I would urge people who are even out walking their dogs near farmland, to keep them tethered to a long lead and under control. Even a well-trained pet can bolt and chase sheep.”
Dog owners and huntsmen/women are being warned that many ewes will now be heavily in lamb or may have just lambed. This makes them vulnerable and UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt, says this year livestock worrying cases reached an all-time high. “It is never acceptable to allow a dog or pack of dogs to attack farm animals and I would remind all owners that it is illegal to allow a dog onto land with livestock unless the dog is under control.”
Each January the UFU is inundated with reports from members about livestock attacked over the Christmas and New Year break. It is hoping this can be avoided over the coming weeks. “All dogs must be on a lead when around livestock and owners who live near the countryside must make sure their dogs cannot escape from their homes. They also need to realise that if a dog is worrying livestock, farmers may have no other option but to exercise their right to kill it to protect their livestock,” said Mr Chestnutt.
Mr Chestnutt added that with a better understanding of the risks and potential consequences he believed the annual carnage on farms over the holiday break could be avoided.