Sheep worrying takes its toll

Sheep worrying is taking its toll on farmers according to a new survey.
Sheep worrying is taking its toll on farmers according to a new survey.

Sheep worrying by dogs is causing around 85% of affected farmers to experience elevated levels of anxiety and stress, a survey conducted by the National Sheep Association (NSA) has revealed.

The questionnaire of 233 sheep farmers across the UK shows just how serious the repercussions of dog attacks on flocks can be, with 85% of respondents listing stress as one of the main impacts on them and their flock.

While the cost and extra time needed to deal with attacks was also highlighted, a worrying trend about the personal impact was revealed – 46% of farmers surveyed listed anxiety about spending time away from their farm, 35% said it had a negative impact on their family/social life, 30% cited depression and 24% went as far as to say they had considered giving up sheep farming. When asked what the single most damaging impact was, the most frequent answer was living with the anxiety of another attack.

Adding to the stress linked to dog worrying, the farmers surveyed revealed the unpredictable situation they find themselves in when asking a dog walker to abide by the law and keep their dog on a lead. The survey showed 30% receiving a mixture of positive and negative responses from dog owners and 25% only receiving negative responses. Just under half (44%) described this negative response as verbal abuse. In line with previous NSA findings, the survey also shows the majority of attacks occur in private or enclosed fields with no public footpath or right of way.

Police figures highlight a rise in the number of reported sheep worrying cases and NSA believes this is just the tip of the iceberg. The survey suggests only 34% of farmers report every incident, so most attacks go unreported.

All of NSA’s survey resultscan be viewed at www.sheepworrying.org.uk.