As lambing season gets under way, the CLA in the North is calling on dog owners to keep their pets under strict control.
The organisation, which represents thousands of farmers and landowners in the region, says dogs should either be kept on leads or watched vigilantly at this time of year, with owners cleaning up any dog mess left during walks in the countryside.
In lambing season, pregnant ewes can abort if they become stressed by loose dogs. Sheep fleeing from dogs can likewise be killed or seriously injured by their panicked attempts to escape, causing significant damage to fences and field boundaries in the process.
CLA North director of policy & public affairs Douglas Chalmers said: “The majority of farmers and landowners welcome walkers - most people are very understanding and walk with their dogs on leads near livestock. But there are some who do not even consider doing this.
“Dogs should always be under close control when walked on farmland, and unless the dog stays closely to heel, this normally means that it should be on a lead.
“A lead should always be used when close to livestock unless being chased by cattle or horses when it is safer to let dogs off the lead.”
The calls come after a survey carried out by Farmers Guardian magazine and the National Sheep Association last year, which found that dog attacks had risen by 50% since 2011 to more than 1,000 in 2013, costing farmers £1.2m in lost production, repair bills and vets’ fees.
Mr Chalmers is also reminding dog owners to clean up their pets’ mess because of a deadly parasite that can be picked up from grass infected by dog faeces.
Neospora caninum affects mainly cattle, dogs and foxes, but can also impact on sheep, goats, deer and horses.
Although it lives in both cattle and dogs, it can only reproduce in the latter. Once inside a cow, the parasite can be deadly, often resulting in abortion or the birth of premature, impaired or infected calves.
Mr Chalmers said: “There may be no obvious symptoms in a dog, but the effects of the parasite Neospora caninum can be devastating in cattle and there is no known treatment.
“Even if there aren’t any animals visibly grazing in a field, they may do in coming weeks, or the grass may be cut and used as feed through the winter.”
The CLA is campaigning for the Government to provide clear guidance to dog owners, setting out their responsibilities and enabling them to better understand impact their animals can have on livestock and farming practices.