Stop Livestock Worrying Says Saintfield Farmer

Councillor Robert Burgess (UUP), a Saintfield farmer,  has been a long- term advocate of a curb in livestock worrying and said he supports the Ulster Farmers Union in their efforts to put an end to farm stock being harassed and killed by uncontrolled dogs.

Cllr Burgess said: “I have been for a number of years calling on the introduction of DNA testing in cases of livestock being attacked by dogs. This is a very significant issue for farmers and when the margins of profit are tight, the last thing any farmer wants is for his animals to become fatalities.

“It is a growing problem. People must not only control their dogs in the countryside but should not let them stray unattended.

Sheep pictured lying dead in the trailer that were chased by a dog and drowned in Strangford Lough.

“Science has moved on considerably and dogs can be tested for contact with sheep and cattle after a worrying incident. But if the dog is with the owner for a period of 6-8 hours the results become less useful before a dog can be pounded for being potentially dangerous to livestock.

“Testing of blood and tissue is important, but wool too found in the dog’s teeth can be useful evidence.

“Sadly there is little if no enforcement of those who are fined in court and have to pay back £1 a week because of their circumstances. This needs to be sorted out as it makes a mockery of court system.

Saintfield farmer Robert Burgess is concerned about the level of livestock worrying.

“Over the years I have witnessed livestock attacks and have had on occasion to shoot a dog worrying sheep. It is not pleasant to have to do this but is absolutely necessary. Dogs can wreak a huge amount of damage to a flock in a very short time with huge cost to the farmer.”

Incidences of livestock worrying have increased in Northern Ireland in recent years and cost the UK Industry an estimated £ 1.6 million in 2017 (Source: NFU Mutual).

UFU calls for tougher stance on livestock worrying.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has met government and other officials to highlight its concerns about livestock worrying and to underline the importance of tackling this in a speedy and effective way.

UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt says this is a serious and ongoing issue for farmers.  Across the UK, it cost the industry £1.6 million in 2017.  “This is a deep frustration for farmers and it is as an animal welfare issue as well as an economic one.  The sight of livestock that have been attacked is sickening.  We need to ensure more is done to educate the public about how serious this is,” said Mr Chestnutt.

The UFU welcomed the recent prosecution of a dog owner whose animals attacked livestock.  It says the courts and others must recognise the distress and suffering from livestock worrying.  “The distress for farmers and livestock is obvious.  Costs come from the loss of stock, the loss of the future value of lambs and the associated veterinary and other costs for animals that are attacked.

“The stress of escaping a worrying attack can result in the flock as a whole failing to thrive or flourish and can take months for the flock to recover,” said the UFU deputy president.

The UFU has backed proposals from the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) to tackle the increase in livestock worrying.  These include a database of dog DNA to help police catch dogs responsible for livestock worrying and new powers to allow the PSNI to seize dogs that repeatedly worry livestock.

“We want to see all owners having to report attacks on livestock.  We also want to see it made compulsory that dog owners take steps to prevent their dog escaping and for all dogs to be on a lead when visiting countryside with livestock. These may sound like tough measures, but they are necessary to curb this problem,” said Mr Chestnutt.

Case study: The prosecution at Laganside Magistrates Court on Tuesday 11th September 2018 was of a 41-year-old man from Carrickfergus. The incident involved three husky type dogs that strayed onto a farm property and attacked livestock on 27 February 2018.  Charges were brought against the individual by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council following an investigation by the Council’s Enforcement Officers under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983.