Livestock worrying cost NI farmers £290,000 in past four years.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union says livestock worrying remains a huge concern as rural insurer NFU Mutual reports that in the last four years, livestock attacks cost Northern Ireland nearly £290,000.
Local livestock farmer Councillor Robert Burgess has backed the UFU in its call for dog owners to keep their pets under control.
With incidents rising, UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt said it is vital the issue of livestock worrying is tackled more aggressively. “It is a harrowing sight to see ewes and lambs that have been seriously injured or killed by dogs and no farmer should have to go through this,” he said.
“In Northern Ireland, there is little legislation to protect farmers and their livestock. Back in October we called on local politicians to back livestock worrying proposals, recommended by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). However, in the absence of an Executive this has made it more challenging to progress,” said Mr Chestnutt. Despite the lack of government, the UFU has managed, through the Rural Crime Partnership and facilitated by the Department of Justice, to set up a Northern Ireland Livestock Worrying Stakeholder Forum. “Collectively, we want to reduce the number of livestock worrying incidences from happening. We also want to highlight the importance of responsible dog ownership in the countryside, with many allowing their pet to roam the freely,” he said.
Mr Chestnitt added: “The UFU says farmers must treat livestock worrying as they would an incident of rural crime. It should be reported to the PSNI and to your local dog warden for investigation. Despite a record number of reported incidences, we suspect livestock worrying is actually under-reported. One of the things we can do is report every incident to help push it up the agenda here in Northern Ireland.”
Burgess Calls On Dog Owners To Keep Control of Their Pooches
Saintfield farmer Councillor Robert Burgess has been a strong advocate of dog owners keeping control of their animals at all times especially during the breeding and lambing season. He said: “A dog can travel quite a distance many miles from its home if it is let out or escapes and could end up on a local farm attacking sheep and return home without the owner being aware of what the dog has done.
“A single dog can do huge damage to a flock of sheep if they are worried or chased. This is a farmer’s worst nightmare if it occurs. The damage is often internal when the lamb is turned in the womb because of the panic the sheep are in and the fast running.
“Dog owners do need to be accountable for their pets. I have had occasion to shoot a dog worrying my sheep and it is not a pleasant thing I would wish on any farmer. So I would urge all dog owners who venture into the countryside to be mindful of all livestock, especially during the calving and lambing season at this time of year. With the growing population of the Saintfield area there are more dogs around.”
The Northern Ireland Livestock Worrying Stakeholder Forum includes representatives from DAERA, NILGA, PSNI, UFU, Northern Ireland Dog Advisory Group, Countryside Alliance Ireland, National Sheep Association and USPCA.