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Leads on for lambing time

10th March 2021

While many of us have worked from home over the last 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, for Scotland’s farmers and crofters it has been business as usual, meeting the demands for fresh produce on our supermarket shelves and butchers shops.

Spring time is of course one of the most important times of the year for sheep farmers, spending long hours tending pregnant ewes and vulnerable new lambs. That is why it is more important than ever to ensure that dog owners avoid livestock and always keep their dogs under control and in sight – even better would be to keep dogs on leads at all times – when in or close to fields with pregnant ewes and new born lambs.

While reported cases of livestock worrying in the Cairngorms National Park are low it is nonetheless a serious worry for the Park’s farmers and crofters with dog fouling being another issue of concern. Parasites found in some dog faeces can result in the abortions of cattle and death in sheep.

Outdoor access officers at the Cairngorms National Park Authority are urging dog owners to put dogs on leads where there is livestock, regardless of whether the dog is well trained and usually walks to heel, and to ensure all poo is picked up and disposed of appropriately.

Adam Streeter Smith, an Outdoor Access Officer at the CNPA said: “Every springtime we encourage dog owners to consider how and where they walk their dog to ensure a less stressful lambing time for our farmers and crofters. Dogs should never be off a lead where there could be pregnant ewes and newborn lambs. Our daily dog walks are good for our physical and mental health – and please continue to enjoy them – but please do so with the utmost care.”

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code and current legislation are very clear when it comes to the responsibilities that dog owners have when walking in or close to farmland and a dog caught amongst sheep could mean a hefty fine for the owner and the dog being destroyed.

CNPA board member and farmer Eleanor Mackintosh commented: “Pregnant ewes and newborn lambs are extremely vulnerable and nervous at this time of year and should not be worried by dogs that have been allowed to run loose. The consequences can be devastating from miscarriage to injuries as a direct result of chasing or attacks by dogs that are not in control. No-one wants to have to witness the damage than can result from dogs that are allowed to run amok.”

NFU Scotland’s Head of Policy Team, Gemma Cooper said: “As we prepare to emerge from lockdown at a time that coincides with lambing and calving, it is more imperative than ever that dog owners ensure that their pets are controlled in the countryside.

“We continue to see the devastating impacts of dog attacks on livestock and this crime is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, we know of a number of cases where farmers have been left with no choice but to shoot dogs that have worried livestock. Any dog, including the most placid family pet, can inflict horrific damage to animals such as sheep. Particularly during lambing season, dogs must not be taken into fields of pregnant ewes or fields where there are young lambs.

“Given that livestock attacks and dog fouling are two of the biggest issues that farmers and landowners face through the irresponsible actions of dog owners, the Union has welcomed the landmark Protection of Livestock Bill, as it makes its way through the Scottish Parliament. Having now passed Stage Two in the parliamentary process, the Bill will significantly increase penalties and powers for investigation in cases where livestock have been attacked by dogs.”

Police Scotland encourages farmers and landowners to engage with dog walkers and to put signs up on gateways and on key roads and paths alerting them to the presence of sheep and lambs in their fields, and to report all incidents of livestock worrying to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides comprehensive advice for dog walkers and all aspects of accessing the Scottish countryside in a safe manner for everyone.