9 things farmers want countryside walkers to remember…

Everyone loves going for walks in the country.

It is hard not to with such amazing scenery, crisp fresh air and abundance of nature. There is just something homely and tranquil about it.

Yet the countryside is also a hectic workplace for farmers up and down the country who are just trying to make a living the best way they know how.

As farmers, we want everyone to be able to enjoy the countryside as much as we do taking care of it, but we really appreciate some respect for our workplace when you are out and about on your weekend strolls.

Here are nine things farmers would like countryside walkers to remember…

       1. Cows live in the countryside too!

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No matter how fluffy it looks, do not pet the calf!

Contrary to social media opinion, cows, bulls and calves still occupy the fields on a regular basis and are often found chudding happily away without a care in the world.

But be prepared for their reaction to you and your dog, especially if there is young livestock nearby.

After all, cows are protective of their newborn young – something seven year old me discovered!

Remember to remain quiet and calm when walking through a field of cows and calves, avoiding any startling movements that may spook them.

And should the worst happen, let GO of your dog and its lead – it can outrun a cow, meaning you can get to safety separately, saving yourself buckets of sweat and a lot of swearing!

      2. Pick up your dog muck 

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A local farmer’s sign! CREDIT: Lorraine Keogh

Dog poo is known to spread Neosporosis – a disease causing cows to abort their calves or become infected if carried to term.

It is a massive pet peeve for farmers, since it only takes dog walkers a few seconds to pick up poo and dispose of it correctly, but failure to do so can cost a farmer his livelihood!

Poo really isn’t a big deal –  farmers deal with tons of it on a daily basis, whether cleaning out sheds, milking cows or muck-spreading.

So take some responsibility and clean up after your pooch – after all you really wouldn’t like it if we came and left our cow crap in your back garden!

3. Buy an up-to-date map .. and stick to it! 

Like most things in life, changes can happen and land is no exception to this.

New ownership means that public footpaths are often redirected to suit a farmers’ long term plan, meaning you should use an up-to-date map to avoid trespassing and being shouted at!

It will also save you knocking on farm house doors/ walking into lambing sheds to ask for directions and taking up a farmer’s precious time, meaning you have more time to explore the countryside, and the farmer can carry on with his daily tasks like normal.

      4. Leave the gates alone

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Leave the gates alone!

If you find the gate open, leave it open.

If you find the gate closed, leave it closed.

Farmers leave gates exactly how they want them and nothing is more frustrating than moving a flock of sheep or herd of heifers to find someone has shut the gate which they are supposed to be turning into!

Just leave the gates alone. Please.

5.  Don’t interfere

Don’t get me wrong, farmers appreciate your concern and are grateful when you inform us about something wrong you discovered on your walks.

But more often than not, we are aware that our tup is lame or that there is a gap in the fence and we are dealing with it. There really is no need for you to interfere.

Unless it is something urgent, such as the pigs have escaped and are making a mud-bath of the village green, presume we have it covered!

6. Unless a sheep is on its back 

Please intervene if you see a sheep on its back struggling to get up – it is ‘rigged’ and will not be able to get up by itself.

7. Don’t rely on 3G 

It may be the 21st century but the countryside still has sparse 3G and limited signal!

Chances are google maps will fail to load and you’ll be stranded in a field completely lost, with limited signal to call for help should an emergency occur.

And whilst you think you may look really cool re-enacting the Simba scene, you just look like a daft townie to farmers, who forgot to buy an up-to-date map and lack a common sense of direction.

Just put your smartphone away and enjoy the countryside in all its glory. You can Instagram that photo of the view once you are back home with a cuppa.

      8. It is private for a reason 

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Farmyards are incredibly busy and sometimes dangerous workplaces, making them private for a reason!

Just stick to the footpath.

We are not trying to hide anything from you, rather prevent an accident from occurring – we are often not aware of your presence and so have not factored it into our (mental) risk assessment of our task.

The last thing we want is for a member of the public to be hurt on our farm. So please just stick to the footpath, and if you do have to cross a farmyard to reach your destination be quick and quiet – no dawdling!

9. Keep your dog on a lead around livestock

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Time for walks

The countryside is a great place to exercise your dogs but please remember to keep them on a lead around livestock.

If I have to shout at any more dog walkers, I will go blue in the face!

Yes, most of you keep your dogs on leads when in fields with livestock and I cannot thank you enough.

But for those that don’t, try telling the farmer who has found his beloved flock dead, maned and stressed your excuses: ‘my dog would never chase or kill a sheep/ he’s so well trained he doesn’t need to be on a lead / she’s too small to do any damage’ and then watch his reaction.

As owners, you should realise dogs have sudden instincts and every dog is capable of harming sheep, regardless of temperament, size, breed etc. Just take some RESPONSIBILITY.

The last thing farmers want to do is lawfully shoot your pooch but sometimes there is no other alternative.

Just keep your dog on a lead around livestock. It is that simple.

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No better sight!

So those are my top nine things I, as a young  farmer, would like countryside walkers to remember during their weekend strolls.

It really is possible for everyone to enjoy the countryside and still be respectful to the people and animals living and working there!

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Sunday Dog Walk

Home from university once again. After all, nothing beats spending the weekend relaxing in a cosy farm house with unlimited cups of tea and home cooked meals.

Home from university once again.

After all, nothing beats spending the weekend relaxing in a cosy farm house with unlimited cups of tea and home cooked meals.

I spent my Sunday afternoon in typical style; taking our two hard working border collies, Polly and Becca, for a run around the fields with my boyfriend.

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Polly, Ryan and Becca in view of Pendle Hill

They are a fairly new addition to the farm, as for a while we did not have any working dogs. However, they are as good as gold and I could not imagine life on the farm without them.

Polly is my favourite of the two, possible because she is extremely loyal and clingy. She is simply an attention seeker who loves everyone she meets, expecting cuddles whenever she wants them.

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Polly mid cuddle

In comparison, Becca is more independent and quiet, which isn’t surprising given that she is the younger of the two and more inquisitive. Yet she can be stubborn and ignorant, in that she is happy to entertain herself with water or rolling in the ground rather than simply running on ahead.

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Becca playing in what is the worlds smallest puddle!

As they are both pretty crazy and full of energy, it is almost impossible to get them both in the same photograph!

Here was my best attempt and I feel it captures their personalities perfectly: Polly craving attention and Becca playing with a stream, not paying any attention to me at all.

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Becca (Left) and Polly (Right) with me

After 20 minutes of letting them run around the empty field, they were tired out and ready for a rest. As we approached the gate, Becca spied the sheep in the nearby shed and her herding instincts started to kick in.

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Nearly home!

After feeding the dogs in their newly built kennels which they got for Christmas, I quickly checked on some pregnant sheep to make sure they were all okay before heading off home.

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All safe and well

And that was how I spent my Sunday afternoon, walking our dogs on the family farm and checking the pregnant sheep that will be lambing come late February/Early March.

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AS A SIDE NOTE: If you are walking your dogs in the countryside over the next coming months, it is CRUCIAL that they are kept on a lead near ALL livestock!

Nothing aggravates me more than seeing sheep wounded and stressed because of peoples’ pure ignorance that ‘their dog would never attack a sheep’.

Research by SheepWatch UK showed that more than 15,000 sheep and unborn lambs were killed in 2016, with many more injured.

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and Protection of Livestock Act 1953, the owner or person in charge of the dog who is worrying sheep on agricultural land is guilty of an offence and could be sentenced up to two years imprisonment as well as face destruction of the dog.

Farmers may also ‘shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing farm animals without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner’.

If livestock is nearby  PUT YOUR DOG(s) ON A LEAD.

It is not a big ask!!!

Respect the countryside and its inhabitants.

Sheep worrying promotional sign updated

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