Expert tips on dogs and livestock
THE FUW caught up with Bryony Francis, a dog behaviour consultant, Clinical Animal Behaviourist and Full Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), who spoke at the Animal Welfare Network Wales livestock worrying seminar, hosted by the FUW at the end of last year.
Bryony has been running a behaviour practice in South Wales and the Marches since 2002 and lives in farming country near the Black Mountains with her husband and a Jack Russell Terrier.
Here is her advice for dog owners when it comes to livestock worrying:
With various access rights, walkers and dogs share the countryside with the farm animals and wildlife that live there. We all want to enjoy it. Yet science shows that any new arrival causes stress to livestock and, of stimuli investigated, a dog is the most aversive stimulus that you can present to sheep.
In short, as soon as you take a dog into a field of sheep, you are likely to cause stress to the sheep regardless of how you and your dog behave after that. Stress can cause illness and injury, and therefore has serious consequences for the welfare of the livestock and the farmer’s livelihood. Owners and walkers of dogs have responsibilities under the law and, under some circumstances, farmers are legally entitled to shoot dogs that endanger their sheep.
Dogs inherit some behavioural tendencies and acquire others. The domestic dog is a predator, with hunting behaviours altered but not eliminated through breeding. A dog’s desire to engage in these hunting behaviours varies from breed to breed and from individual dog to individual dog. Most dogs learn early in their lives to enjoy chasing things.
In dog behavioural development terms, the socialisation period between 3 and 15 weeks of age is a sensitive phase of social development providing a window of opportunity where experience of sheep might set them up for friendly, calm interactions.
That said, like all socialisation, it is a lifelong exercise requiring skilled positive handling and knowledge of both species to maintain good behaviour between dog and sheep. If your dog has not encountered sheep before or will not encounter sheep on a daily basis, then you are well advised not to invoke interest in sheep at all. Otherwise, you may ‘awake’ in your dog exactly the predatory chasing behaviour you are trying to avoid and it is much harder to stop than it is to prevent in the first place. Instead, please manage your dog on a lead and at a distance which will not disturb the sheep.
If your dog has already gained access to sheep and become over-interested, the first thing to do is to keep your dog away from sheep, whether or not you are accompanying it (a significant proportion of livestock worrying takes place without the dog owner’s knowledge. If your dog has free run of your garden, make sure it’s secure).
The second is to find a specialist, qualified behaviour counsellor and discuss a management plan and realistic goals. Whoever provides this should be an expert in the behaviour of the particular livestock species and able to recognise and respond to any sign of distress in livestock as well as in people and dogs.
Inappropriate advice and methods may worsen your dog’s behaviour and can result in welfare problems for livestock and dogs. Registered clinical animal behaviourists, such as APBC Members, have achieved the highest academic and practical standards in the field of animal behaviour: they can help dog owners to use positive reinforcement techniques, away from livestock, to teach your dog to walk calmly on a short, loose lead and to focus their attention on you regardless of distractions.
If your dog hasn’t seen livestock before, and there is no need for it to see livestock, consider keeping it away. Where possible, avoid walking your dog in fields containing livestock. If you can’t avoid fields containing livestock, give the livestock plenty of space. Keep your dog on a short lead and focussed on you.
You’ll be doing the livestock a favour and possibly preventing a behaviour problem in your dog.
Last Golden Eagle of Wales found dead
WALES will no longer see the golden eagle fly through the skies after the last of its kind was found dead by a walker in Abergwesyn Valley, near Llanwrtyd Wells.
The Golden Eagle was native to Wales, Europe and North America and due to human persecution had begun to die out, the last breeding pair being found in Snowdonia in 1850. It is one of the best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, but unfortunately Wales will not see the bird in action for a very long time.
The female bird of prey was being watched and followed by the presenter of Spring Watch, Iolo Williams, and will appear in the last episode of the latest show ‘Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales.’
The company behind the television show which captures the highlights of Welsh wildlife, Aden Productions, commented on the extinction of the Golden Eagle. Taking to twitter, a statement read:
“Our whole crew was shocked and saddened to hear about the demise of our beloved Cambrians golden eagle, the last golden eagle to fly wild in Wales. We hope our final episode of Iolo: The Last Wilderness of Wales is a fitting tribute to her.”
It is still not known how the female bird died, leaving questions for bird lovers, but plans are being made by the Eagle Reintroduction Wales project to reintroduce the bird of prey back into Welsh wildlife is under way. However, it is explained that this is not a simple process. They will firstly need Natural Resource Wales to issue a license which does take time.
The Golden Eagle has not left the UK completely and can still be found in the far North of Scotland.
Big Farmland Bird Count returns
JIM EGAN has sent out a rallying cry for people to pick up their binoculars and go bird-spotting for the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) which returns on Friday, February 8.
The passionate organiser of the count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is urging farmers, land managers, gamekeepers and all wildlife enthusiasts to spend 30 minutes recording what species they see on their patch of land from February 8th to the 17th.
Your support will help identify the farmland birds that are flourishing due to good conservation methods and ones in need of most support.
“It would be fantastic to see even more farmers to take part in the count this year,” said Jim.
“Counting birds on farms is a great way to recognise what species are there as well as being an opportunity to take time out and see the benefits of work such as wild seed mix and supplementary feeding.
“Taking part and submitting results enables us at GWCT to shout about the important conservation work many farmers are doing.
“We want landowners to be proud of their efforts. We will make sure that the public and policymakers hear about what can be achieved on Britain’s farms. The BFBC is a very positive way to showcase what can be achieved.”
Backing this vital citizen-science project, running for the sixth successive year, is the NFU, which is this year’s sponsor.
President Minette Batters is vowing her support to the count by going bird-watching on her farm in Downton, Wiltshire.
She will be joined on day one with GWCT biodiversity advisor Pete Thompson, an advocate of the count, both of whom will be ready with their binoculars, notepads and sharpened pencils, recording what they see.
“I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count which the NFU is pleased to be sponsoring for the very first time,” she said.
“It’s becoming an important national event where thousands of farmers and growers around the country are able to take stock of and importantly, take pride in what they find on their land.
“The NFU supports initiatives like the Big Farmland Bird Count as without sound management of the environment, enhancement of habitats, protection of wildlife and support for pollinators and soils, we do not have farming businesses.
“So, I would encourage all farmers to take part, and also remember to submit your records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.”
A record-breaking 1,000 people took part in last year’s count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.
A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list. These include fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.
At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.
New Flock and Herd Health Officers
HYBU Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has appointed two new Flock and Herd Health Officers to its ambitious five-year Red Meat Development Programme, designed to equip Wales’s lamb and beef industry for a changing future.
The posts are key to delivering the programme’s commitment to helping farmers achieve on-farm efficiency and drive best practice in proactive animal health planning.
The programme is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
Lowri Reed hails from a farming background near Llanon in central Ceredigion, whereas Lowri Williams is from Llanfihangel y Creuddyn near Aberystwyth, and is a graduate in Animal Management and Welfare from Harper Adams University.
Dr Rebekah Stuart, the coordinator of the Flock and Herd Health Project at HCC, said: “We’re delighted to have recruited two officers with experience and knowledge of agriculture and flock management to this important strand of work.
“There are few things that can have as great an impact on the efficiency and bottom line of a livestock enterprise as a proactive and coordinated approach to animal health and eradicating disease.
“The project will help farmers to work with vets to put health plans in place and monitor their effectiveness. Since opening an initial expression of interest window late last year at the Winter Fair, we’re encouraged by how many farmers are keen to be involved. We look forward to working with them to put this exciting project into action.”
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