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Walkers warned of summer livestock dangers

By Alan Beresford

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AN agricultural expert is warning Scottish walkers and farmers to stay vigilant in the vicinity of livestock and their young this summer, to avoid endangering lives and jeopardising livelihoods.

James Cuthbertson of rural insurance broker Lycetts.
James Cuthbertson of rural insurance broker Lycetts.

James Cuthbertson, of rural insurance broker Lycetts, is urging the public and farmers to take steps to protect themselves, ramblers and livestock, as the trend for countryside walking sets to continue post-lockdown.

He is encouraging the public to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, particularly as livestock are now being sent out to pasture with their young, and for farmers to take precautions to keep the public and livestock separate and safe.

Over the past five years, 24 people were killed by animals in the agricultural industry, with members of public amongst the deaths, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

Eighteen of these deaths were caused by cattle and six by bulls.

Mr Cuthbertson said: “In Scotland, we are lucky enough to have access rights to most land but only if exercised responsibly.

"It’s important for people to remember that much of the countryside is working land and that their actions impact the lives and livelihoods of others – along with their own safety.

“As well as being courteous to those who farm the local land, it is important to be fully aware of the risks that come with visiting the countryside.

“Even the most placid farm animals can become dangerous when they are stressed, with adverse weather, illness, disturbance, or maternal instincts just some of the triggers. Farmers understand and recognise signs of stress – but many members of the public don’t.

“Sadly, every year people are seriously and fatally injured by livestock and walkers should never underestimate these animals, particularly at this time of year, when cattle have calves at foot and protective maternal instincts are at play.

“When journeying to the countryside, use maps to plan ahead and read signs to help find your way and ensure you don’t enter fields where at-risk livestock are present.

“Always remember to leave gates as you find them. Farmers close gates to keep animals in or leave them open to give access to food and water. Do not interfere with livestock and give them plenty of space.

“Finally, do not let dogs off the leash where livestock is present and keep them away from animals at all times. Should you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you and your dog are surrounded by cattle – particularly if they are with their young – and you sense danger, this is the only time you should let go of your dog. Though it is instinctual to protect your dog by holding it close, the livestock will likely be more interested in your pet and chase it, diverting the danger.”

Animals who have young can act unpredictably if they they feel threatened.
Animals who have young can act unpredictably if they they feel threatened.

While walkers should take care, he pointed out that it is equally important farmers take precautionary steps to prevent the public from accessing areas where animals are residing. Farmers may face prosecution if walkers are injured by their livestock, and negligence is proved.

Among the recommended measures was for farmers to instal appropriate signage where animals are present and also to be aware that previously quiet rights of way may have become a lot busier.

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