DOG owners are being warned to keep their pets under control near livestock as the cost of sheep worrying hits home for farmers.
Sheep are being hassled and in some cases killed due to dogs running wild where they are grazing and as a result farmers are pleading for their owners to take more responsibility, especially during the lambing season.
Tom Parry, who grazes sheep on land just beneath the main car park on Moel Famau, was alerted to an ongoing incident on Sunday when a dog was found chasing animals around the hillside.
“It’s my livelihood at stake,” he explained.
“The dogs chase them and bite them, there were three last year that had to be put down.
“It’s a big loss and it gets you down.”
He admitted he was often not aware of the true cost to his flock until the bracken died back and the carcasses were exposed.
One sheep alone is worth more than £100, he said, and it costs another £20-25 to have the body disposed of.
Many dog owners also do not appreciate the risk to their pet, he added – the law allows farmers to shoot any dog found worrying their livestock.
“When I heard about the one that was reported on Sunday I took my gun with me.
“I would have shot him but he ran off.”
The incident comes after a ewe due to give birth to two lambs was killed on land belonging to the Cae Dai Trust in Denbigh.
The loss was devastating to owner Sparrow Harrison and farm manager Grug-Gwyn Davies because the deaths brought the total since January to eight, amounting to about a quarter of the herd.
Also keen to highlight the cost to farmers was Emyr Jones, president of the Farmers Union Wales who has a sheep and cattle farm near Bala.
He was quick to say the majority of dog owners were responsible and kept their pets on the lead near livestock but added: “This is a huge concern.
“Farmers look after their sheep and lambs all through the winter, they work hard, and then irresponsible people go round with dogs.
“There have been some huge losses.
“People don’t realise how dangerous dogs can be.”
He suggested larger fines and the risk of the dog being put down after an incident could help tackle the problem.
“None of us want to shoot a dog but people need to understand how important this is,” he added.
Fellow farmer Rhys Hughes, who grazes sheep at his farm near World’s End, described coming to work and finding your stock had been harassed as “horrendous”.
“It’s definitely a worry which is always in the back of your head because even being chased is quite traumatic for the animal.”
Sharon Woods, forest partnership warden for the area of outstanding natural beauty, said the vast majority of dog owners were responsible and that few incidents took place on Moel Famau.
She thanked the public for their co-operation and for taking heed of dog fouling notices.
“The message is getting out there now,” she added.