2 June 1995

Check your liability cover, farmers urged

By Peter Bullen

LIVESTOCK farmers should check their insurance cover, warns Sussex beef producer Mike Sherwood.

They may find themselves responsible for huge third party claims for damages that could bankrupt them, he says. On the 121ha (300-acre) Dudwell Farm he and his father Bob rent from the National Trust at Burwash, Sussex, 90 Limousin suckler cows plus calves graze in fields crossed by heavily used footpaths.

As many as 200 or 300 people cross the farm at weekends, which is why Mr Sherwood began worrying when he read earlier this year of a farmer being sued for £45,000 by a walker injured by cattle.

On checking with his insurance brokers he was horrified to learn that the public liability clause of his Norwich Union policy would not cover accidents involving cows that were "known to be unreliable."

Both Mike and his father argue that this could apply to every cow at least for a few hours immediately after calving. When its calf is lying at its feet any cow is likely to attack strangers entering a field with a dog.

"They dont seem to mind people or even children but as soon as they see a dog they jump up to protect their calf. Every time you hear of an incident involving cows worrying walkers you can bet they have had a dog with them," says Mike. "The cows immediately become protective of their calf if a strange dog comes close."

It means every cow could be deemed unreliable and a farmer could have to pay huge damages if sued by a member of the public injured by cows when crossing his land, he says.

But Norwich Union says its a bit mystified by the advice given to Mr Sherwood. Every case is treated on its merits and if a farmer is held liable in law it would pay out under its policy. &#42