Farmers are urging walkers to keep their dogs under control after recent incidents have seen lambs mauled and cattle chased through barbed wire fencing.
The past few months have seen a steep rise in incidents of sheep and cattle worrying as hundreds of dog walkers head to the South Downs, keen to escape the lockdown and enjoy their daily exercise.
But too many walkers have been letting their dogs off their leads and losing control, and this has resulted in tragic consequences for Brighton & Hove City Council’s tenant farmers.
Eight lambs mauled
Tim Carnaghan, from Standean Farm, has seen eight of his lambs mauled to death in separate incidents over the past few weeks.
Tim said: “Since the lockdown rules were relaxed, we have seen a phenomenal number of dog walkers out and about and, while we appreciate the benefits that a walk on the Downs can bring, it’s essential that dogs are kept on leads and under proper control.
“On an average year we may lose one, possibly two, of our lambs following dog attacks, so to lose eight in just a few weeks is devastating.
“A single dog will attack one lamb but when you get more than one, they hunt together and will keep on killing. It’s vital that walkers stick to the footpaths, close any gates and keep their dogs under control.”
Cows chased through barbed wire fencing
David Robinson, from Northease Farm in Rodmell, was horrified after a herd of his cows were found wandering between the campus buildings at Sussex University after being chased by a pack of dogs and breaking through barbed wire boundary fencing.
In their bid to find a way out, some of the cows had gone up and downs steps, while others found themselves trapped in narrow walkways.
Many of the young cows suffered cuts from the barbed wire, including one serious eye injury, and all were clearly traumatised. David and his team spent several hours rounding up the distressed cows, before transporting them back to the farm.
David, who sees hundreds of dog walkers pass though his land every day, said: “The cows could easily have run on to the A27, which would have been devastating.
“I’ve seen gates deliberately propped open and have found a cow choking after eating a dog waste bag left hanging on a bush.
“Some dog owners don’t bother to clean up after their pets at all, which is not only unpleasant for farmers like myself and my dogs.”
Please be responsible
The council’s land agent Guy Streeter from Savills commented that an increased number of people have been using the countryside on the fringe of the city recently and this has put additional stress on a number of grazing areas.
The reminder to everyone is to please act responsibly, especially when walking dogs and adhere to the Countryside Code at all times.
'Take the lead' to protect livestock and wildlife
Andrew Lee, Director of Countryside Policy and Management at the South Downs National Park Authority, added: “Responsible dog walking is a great way for people to get out, get fit and experience the National Park.
"We want everyone to have the opportunity to understand and enjoy the South Downs and we know people love this wonderful place.
"We need people to please remember that dogs needs to be on a lead or under very close control at all times to not only protect lambs and other livestock but also to protect our wildlife, which can easily be disturbed.
“Our farmers have been doing an amazing job during the lockdown at keeping food supplies going and in supporting our wildlife, and they need our support now more than ever.
“We welcome responsible dog owners and would urge anybody walking their dogs in the National Park to make themselves familiar with our Take The Lead campaign.
"Two of the key aspects of this initiative are to keep dogs on a lead near livestock and to bag and bin dog poo.”
The Take The Lead Campaign has four key messages for responsible dog walking:
- Keep dogs on a lead near livestock
- Bag and bin poo, any public bin will do
- Protect ground nesting birds by stick to the paths, especially between 1 March – 15 September
- Do not enter military training areas when the red flags are flying