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Farmers warn people not to walk pets on their land after worrying rise in sheep kills across Northern Ireland

Sam Chesney

Farmers across Northern Ireland are urging dog walkers to stay off their land as the number of sheep killed has escalated since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

April traditionally sees the fields full of newborn lambs, which to the public creates an idyllic view but to some dogs the innocent lambs present a target.

With virus restrictions in place many public spaces where dog owners usually walked their animals are now closed.

Farmers are now witnessing increased numbers of people walking across their land with dogs, some even assuming the land has public access.

The latest incident occurred on yesterday morning when a young farmer went to check her sheep near Saintfield and found her valuable ram dead in a small river with dog teeth marks on the carcass.

She said: "I went to see my rams on Sunday morning and found one dead in the shallow river with dog bites on it. The river has a stone bottom and only runs maybe three or four inches deep with water.

"Sadly, I didn't see the dog but there are increased numbers of people, many not from the area, out walking with dogs not on leads. That ram cost me £500 and for someone to be careless like this is disgusting," she said.

Another farmer near Broughshane said he is turning walkers off his land almost weekly.

He said: "A few days ago I was installing a water pipe and drinker for my sheep when a group of six people came walking along my lane towards me with dogs, some not on leads.

"On the other side of the fence are sheep and young lambs so I asked if I could help them. One lady thought my lane was a right of way to the main road but I told her it is private.

"We have had problems in the past with lambs being killed but it's with this outbreak that I have felt stronger about trespassers and potentially spreading infection climbing gates."

A Ballynahinch farmer has also lost £2,500 after dogs killed three of her pedigree Texel ewes which were in lamb.

Ulster Farmers' Union beef and sheep committee chairman Sam Chesney said the public need to realise the dangers of letting dogs off leads.

"The UFU is very concerned about the number of reports we are receiving about dog attacks which seem to have escalated with the virus crisis," he said.

Belfast Telegraph