‘Just please, keep your dog on a lead’ dairy farmer urges public after dog attack

10 November 2023

Dairy farmers Mat and Chrissie Crossman are urging the public to always keep their dogs on a lead when walking through the countryside after a dog broke into their cow shed. 

“My passion is working with dairy cows – I’ve worked with them my whole life and wouldn’t want to do anything else,” explains Mat as he checks on his favourite cow, Judy, the “awkward one”, he jokes.

Mat and Chrissie's farm is based in Wiltshire, where they've diversified into milk vending with their business Moo2Yoo, delivering fresh milk every day into five machines dotted around the local area.

Earlier this year, Mat and Chrissie lost two of their cows after a dog unexpectedly broke into their cow shed where their herd of 108 cows were sheltering from the rain. Now they're urging the public to help protect the countryside and keep their dogs on leads.

Mat recalls: “The cows were in the shed which is unusual for that time of year, but it was so wet outside we decided to keep them in. The dog just ran into the main farmyard and up into the shed where the cows were sleeping.

“It startled them, causing them to all run up to one end of the shed.”

Chrissie adds: “As you can imagine, 108 cows all running in one direction, in a panic, can cause a lot of problems. Matt ran into the shed and as soon as he ran in there you could see there was one cow down, she’d broken her back leg.

“There was no sign of the dog, and when we managed to get the cows to spread out it was clear to see there was one with a dislocated hip – her leg was just dangling. It was horrific to see.”

You stand there and watch two cows which were perfectly healthy just three hours ago, be euthanised put on a lorry, never to be seen again.”

NFU member and dairy farmer Mat Crossman

“You stand there and watch two cows which were perfectly healthy just three hours ago, be euthanised, put on a lorry, never to be seen again,” says Mat.

Knock-on effect

NFU Mutual data shows that the claims costs of dog attacks on farm animals rose to more than £1.8 million in 2022.

A survey of more than 1,100 dog owners commissioned by NFU Mutual found that dog walkers are becoming more distracted, with their pets out of sight, and are therefore unaware of the damage that could be inflicted.

“There’s a massive knock-on effect,” explains Chrissie. “The cows were distressed for days afterwards – we lost 500 litres in milk production from them because they were so stressed. We had two calve early so we had two tiny calves that thankfully are alive but then we had another young cow who aborted twins.”

“There was no trace of the dog or owners anywhere at all. We’re not even sure the owner knows it’s happened to this day,” says Mat.

“Just please keep your dog on a lead. Farmers want people to enjoy the countryside, it’s a beautiful place to be. But with that comes a level of responsibility from everyone. Farmers need to keep people safe, people need to keep things in the countryside safe.

“If you think to yourself, ‘well my dog will be alright’, you need to think of the worse case scenario. Even the best trained dogs can run off and not come back.”

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