The UK sheep sector is at risk of being permanently forced to live with the devastating consequences of dog attacks.
That is the concerning belief of the National Sheep Association (NSA), after findings from its annual survey into the serious issue revealed disheartened and discouraged farmers fear the threat of sheep worrying affecting their flocks on a regular basis.
In the survey of more than 300 sheep farmers, 70% had experienced a sheep worrying attack in the past 12 months, with 95% of respondents experiencing up to 10 cases per year.
On average, three sheep deaths were reported each year due to a dog attack. This does not take into account production losses in sheep, including miscarriage, that were reported by almost 70% of respondents.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “UK farmers are making huge gains improving animal health and welfare and are now being incentivised by governments to do this also.
“But one of the most concerning threats to sheep welfare, worrying by dogs, continues to be swept under the carpet. It seems to be an area where resolution is too difficult a challenge to tackle and so, attacks continue with little consequence to those at fault.”
Mr Stocker said there is a real concern amongst sheep farmers that the situation is spiralling out of control and becoming the norm.
“As reported in the NSA survey, farmers are taking what steps they can to protect their flocks including displaying signs, moving sheep to areas with less public access and working with communities via social media but unfortunately these actions are having little impact in improving the number of sheep worrying incidents,” he said.