Dog attacks on livestock have reached record levels with more than 1,000 reports of sheep and cattle worrying on farms in 2016 at an estimated cost of £1.4m.
The alarming figures sparked a warning from rural insurer NFU Mutual with the firm calling on the public to do more to prevent dogs worrying livestock.
With many families expected to visit the countryside during half-term and the Easter holidays, the insurer is asking dog owners always to keep their pets on a lead.
The public has been urged to report out-of-control dogs to a local farmer or the police.
In many counties, insurance claims for livestock attacks rose by more than 50% year-on-year in 2016.
The Midlands, Scotland and the South West are the three worst-affected areas for dog attacks on livestock.
Costs more than trebled in Scotland and doubled in the Midlands, while the average claim rose by nearly £500 to just over £1,300.
Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “For small farmers, in particular, livestock worrying is devastating because it has a huge impact on their productivity.
“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.
“We are seeing higher individual costs of claims resulting from worrying, which may be due to an increase in numbers of some pedigree and rare breed sheep.”
Five tips to reduce risk of dog attacks on livestock
- Check stock regularly in case any have been attacked
- 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 get into grazing fields
- Report any attacks to the police immediately
- Ask neighbours to alert you if they see loose dogs near your livestock
(Source: NFU Mutual)