A dog walker walks his dog on a lead in a field with sheep© FLPA/John Eveson/Rex/Shutterstock

Dog owners are being urged to do more to prevent attacks on livestock after figures showed the cost of claims have reached a record level.

According to NFU Mutual, the cost of livestock worrying has risen 67% over the past two years in the UK.

The rural insurer said not all livestock farmers insure against sheep worrying, but it estimates the annual cost to the industry is now £1.6m, while the average cost of a claim has risen by more than 50% to £1,300.

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In Scotland, the costs of livestock worrying more than quadrupled from £11,000 in 2015 to £51,000 last year.

In England, claims in the Midlands almost doubled from £23,000 to £44,000 over the same period.

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price said the figures were only “part of the picture” as not all livestock farmers are insured for livestock worrying.

“For small farmers in particular, livestock worrying is devastating because it has a huge impact on their productivity,” he added.

“While insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, there is a knock-on effect on breeding programmes that can take years to overcome.”

Keep dogs on leads

Meanwhile, research by NFU Mutual has revealed that more than 80% of dog owners exercise their pets in the countryside, with more than 60% letting them roam off the lead.

Seven percent of owners admitted their pets had chased livestock in the past.

NFU Mutual is urging dog owners who take their pets on walks in the countryside to keep them on a lead at all times around livestock.

Advice for dog owners 

  • Always keep dogs on leads in rural areas where livestock are kept
  • Report dog attacks and sightings of dogs roaming the countryside to local farmers or the police
  • Familiarise puppies with farm livestock from a young age to reduce the risk of them attacking sheep or cattle as adult dogs
  • Don’t let dogs loose in gardens adjoining livestock fields – many attacks are caused by dogs which escape and worry sheep grazing nearby

(Source: NFU Mutual)

Advice for farmers

  • Check stock regularly in case any have been attacked
  • When possible keep sheep in fields away from footpaths
  • Put up signs warning dog owners to keep their pets under control on your land
  • Maintain fences, walls and hedges to make it more difficult for dogs to access grazing fields
  • Report any attacks to the police immediately
  • Ask neighbours to alert you if they see attacks or loose dogs near your livestock

(Source: NFU Mutual)