Farm Ireland

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Dogs a factor in majority of cattle attacks

Suckler cows will protect their calf at any time of year.
Suckler cows will protect their calf at any time of year.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The presence of dogs is a factor in two thirds of attacks by cattle on humans.

Researchers in the UK carried out a review to identify risk factors into incidents involving cattle and members of the public.

Out of 54 attacks on people reported in Britain between 1992 and 2013, two-thirds involved dogs and one in four proved fatal.

There is a stronger tradition of people walking in the countryside with dogs in the UK, where there are public access rights to certain lands and bridleways.

"We found that walking with dogs among cows, particularly with calves present, was a common factor for an attack," said Dr Carri Westgarth, a dog behaviour expert at the University of Liverpool.

"One theory for this is that cows may feel particularly threatened by dogs, especially if they have young to protect. People then try to protect their dogs, which can lead to a tragic incident occurring."

It highlighted that injuries from cattle were often under-reported.

John McNamara, Teagasc health and safety officer, said farmers and people in the countryside must keep their dogs under control.

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However, he pointed out there were cultural differences between Ireland and the UK where walking across land in the countryside was more common.

Mr McNamara said walking through herds with calves in the spring time is "not to be recommended".

"People should not be walking in through fields with dogs or otherwise," he said.

"Cattle especially suckler cows will protect their calf at any time of the year.

"You might just accidentally get between the cow and calf," he said.

Mr McNamara urged farmers to take extra care during the busy spring time on farms, as he highlighted safety measures such as calving pens with easy access gates.

"Aggressiveness is an inheritable condition and we are encouraging people to breed for docility and get a calm herd," he said.

"Farmers should be calm at all times when they handle animals."

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