With the number of dog attacks on livestock at record levels, the NFU is urging the public to be more responsible when visiting the countryside.
Latest figures show there were more than 700 cases of sheep and cattle worrying on farms across the country last year costing farmers an estimated £1 million.
In recent years a number of people have also been killed or injured in incidents when they have been trampled by herds of cows.
Today the NFU is launching its Love your countryside campaign to highlight how to enjoy the countryside responsibly and keep safe when out walking in fields with livestock.
Around 3.6 billion tourists visit the British countryside every year and with walkers making up 18 per cent of all visitors to rural areas, walkers are being urged to take on board some simple safety tips to stay safe and protect livestock.
Farmer Hugh Broom runs Sondes Place Farm, a 320 acre mixed farm near Dorking, Surrey. The NFU South East livestock board member, who has lost 60 sheep over a three-month period, said dog attacks on livestock at the farm are not rare.
“Livestock worrying is completely unnecessary and really is totally preventable. Many owners do act responsibly and control their dogs, however, when they don’t the consequences can be awful. Attacks on our animals cause untold suffering and horrendous injuries, which often results in them having to be put down.
“We must work to help people understand the damage that can be done as sadly, with more and more attacks happening, the message doesn’t seem to be hitting home with some dog owners.
NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said walkers in the countryside just need to follow a few simple guidelines.
“The countryside is a beautiful place to walk in. However, it is maintained this way because it is working environment where animals graze, so it’s important to take care and be mindful of your surroundings.
“When walking with dogs in fields with cattle, the advice is to avoid getting between cows and their calves and to keep any dogs close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep. You should not hang onto your dog if you are threatened by cattle though - let it go, as the cattle will chase the dog.
“Farmers also have a responsibility as to the safety of the animals in the fields and they take that responsibility seriously.
But we would urge anyone using the countryside to be sympathetic to farm animals rearing their young and give them space.”
We’ve spoken to farmers Adam and Hugh about their experiences of sheep worrying.