Bradfield: Farmers issue warning over sheep worrying

Clive Hale feeds the flock of sheep were injured from sheep worrying at Millfields Rare Breeds farm

Clive Hale feeds the flock of sheep were injured from sheep worrying at Millfields Rare Breeds farm in Bradfield. - Credit: Archant

SHEEP farmers in north Essex are urging walkers to keep their dogs on leads after a series of attacks on livestock which could cost thousands of pounds.

Andrea and Clive Hale who run Millfields Rare Breeds in Bradfield say they could face losing dozens of critically endangered unborn lambs and have to stop breeding altogether because of sheep worrying.

Their 23 ewes are due to lamb any time but Mrs Hale says they may all be still-born because of stress and panic caused by dogs chasing them.

Mrs Hale said: “This is a problem shepherds have been dealing with for years. There’s a lack of understanding if people aren’t involved with sheep they think it’s perfectly OK if their dog goes into a field and they’re playing but sheep don’t see that and panic.”

She said the sheep can sometimes run into fences and damage their neck or go into shock which can cause their off-spring to die.

“It’s more serious than people think,” she added.

Three weeks ago a rare pregnant Boreray ewe died from sheep worrying after injuring her neck.

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Mrs Hale said: “If we get away with anything I’ll be very surprised. We may have to stop doing what we’re doing. Every ewe carries two lambs which are worth £165 a piece.”

According to the National Union of Farmers, the cost of the problem to farmers nationwide is £1million a year.

Legislation introduced under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act states it is an offence for a dog to worry - chase or attack - livestock on agricultural land.

Neighbouring Bradfield sheep breeder David Lodge of Harrowfield Farm said his Southdown ram was killed on Christmas day after being attacked by a dog, while some of his sheep which live near the sea wall at Little Oakley had to be rescued from the water after being chased.

He said: “There are signs which tell dog walkers to keep their pets on their leads and a lot of people abide by the rules but there is a minority who do not.

“It’s difficult to police so it’s more a case of making people aware of the consequences of their actions and telling them these are the outcomes.”

Margaret Garner, 67, has been breeding lambs for more than 25 years in the area and said it is hard to monitor cases of sheep worrying, with most breeders only finding out when their ewes give birth.

She said: “When dogs go into a field and attack sheep, they sometimes have to be put down because of their injuries. So you lose a sheep, two unborn lambs and have to pay for the carcass to be removed. Once you add it all up it’s a lot.

“But often if they are not phyically injured, you have no idea until they lamb whether they have been affected by sheep worrying.

“People don’t realise their little dog can do so much damage.”