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Vice President Blog - 30 March 2018

It’s time to take a lead on livestock worrying writes Vice President Martin Kennedy from his lambing shed in Highland Perthshire.

Livestock worrying is a problem that does not seem to be going away, despite best efforts by many stakeholders. 

That is why NFU Scotland is supporting The Scottish Farmer’s ‘Take a Lead’ campaign - http://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/takealead/.  We need all dog owners to take their responsibilities seriously and we need legislative changes and proper enforcement to drive a change in attitudes.

And I write from experience.  Once again, dogs have attacked our hoggs at wintering on the east coast. Although the damage this year wasn't as bad as has happened in the past, it's still extremely stressful seeing the unbelievable injuries an uncontrolled dog can do to a helpless animal simply grazing in a field. 

We've had a total of 5 attacks in the last 15 years and sadly I have no confidence that there will not be another one. The worst case was just after New Year in 2012 when six Continental hoggs were killed and a further 17 needed intense veterinary help, some requiring reconstructive surgery. The cost of this attack was well into four figures, not including the potential loss of future breeding from these hoggs. Although we got the dog, which was a Staffordshire bull terrier, and it was put down immediately, no owner would come forward, probably because they realised they would be liable for a pretty hefty bill. 

It's a bit ironic that only recently we took the opportunity to go to Norway to look at predation on sheep by Lynx and other predators. It now seems we have our own predation issues with domestic dogs and we must do something soon to try and address this ever-increasing problem. 

I'm not sure where we should start but much heavier penalties should be enforced.  These penalties shouldn't just be covering the direct physical loss but should also cater for the psychological impact on farmers and crofters who, in many cases, have taken years to build up a stock they are proud of. Only when there is the risk of a more appropriate penalty will people take this issue seriously. 

Although the thought of DNA sampling of all dogs seems a bit extreme, it may be possible to take a sample when dogs are chipped. The problem will be the responsible owners will come forward and get their dogs chipped quite happily. Unfortunately, the irresponsible amongst us will keep a low profile therefore making the challenge harder, so heftier fines reflecting the seriousness of the crime would be the place to start. 

The outdoor access code definitely needs reviewed.  We want people to walk in and enjoy the countryside, but the term 'responsible access' needs to be better defined. 

Farming and crofting in Scotland is not just a way of life, it is a business that has to be worked profitably to provide the high quality produce we do. All we are asking for is for our industry to be respected like any other industry and that our commitment to the welfare of our stock is matched by all dog owners. 

When it comes to dogs, if you are walking in the countryside, please respect that where there are animals present, not only is there a risk of your dog creating absolute carnage and making you liable for a very hefty fine, but you are also putting yourself in danger when it comes to larger animals like cows and calves who can be unpredictable. 

We believe that farmers, crofters and all responsible dog owners want to tackle the plague of regular and distressing attacks by dogs on Scottish livestock.  We urge all to sign up to The Scottish Farmer 'Take a Lead' petition for change at:  http://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/takealead/


Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is married with three daughters and farms with his wife Jane in Highland Perthshire on a hill farm rising to 2,500ft. They have 600 breeding ewes, 30 continental cows and 30 Highlanders. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch President, he first represented East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009 before being elected as Vice Chairman for three years. He is currently serving his second year as Chairman. He is a past chairman of Aberfeldy Show and Highland Games, a post he held for six years.

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