Marauding dogs wreak havoc on sheep farms across Co Longford

Sheep farming in Co Longford is on the increase and is worth hundreds of thousands of euro to the local economy.

Sheep farming in Co Longford is on the increase and is worth hundreds of thousands of euro to the local economy.

Over the past few years there has been a steady rise in the demand by consumers for lamb produce and the last couple of years has seen a continuous increase in red meat prices.

But with more and more farmers getting involved in sheep farming, a notable increase in the number of sheep killed by marauding dogs across the county has also become evident, particularly around lambing season.

One farmer in Co Longford - who lost a large number of sheep already this year to marauding dogs - told the Leader that there had been “occasional and random” attacks on sheep by dogs since the start of this year across the county and the kills were having a “detrimental impact” on farmers.

“It is impacting on farmers’ incomes,” he said, adding that there was also the “pain and cruelty” caused to the sheep in the first instance to be considered.

“As a nation we claim to be animal lovers and yet we see dogs – year in and year out – who get out of control and away from their owners, killing sheep. The national farming press has reported substantial losses on sheep farms, not just in Co Longford, but right across the country.”

The local farmer went on to say that there was an increase in dog ownership across Co Longford as homeowners endeavoured to protect themselves and their properties from burglaries and thefts which continue to rise in rural Ireland. “Some are opting for large dogs that can be aggressive by nature and need careful management at all times,” the farmer added.

“On all farms, cattle and sheep are immediately tagged and registered on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s database. This helps to facilitate Quality Assurance schemes, supply patterns etc, and yet dogs are free to roam around, well outside of the remit, such as this, which is imposed on cattle and sheep. The law states that dog owners must have a dog licence and there is an onus on the local authority to ensure that all dog owners have licences for their pets. Sheep farmers want an end to the scourge of dog attacks on sheep.”

In a statement, the IFA stated that it had set up a service for sheep farmers where they could report dog attacks on sheep flocks, information that would be then stored on a national database.

It is estimated that there are roughly five million sheep in Ireland, generating revenue of nearly e3m annually.

IFA National Sheep Committee Chairman, James Murphy said the IFA has set up a service for sheep farmers to report all dog attacks on sheep flocks on a national database. He said the “frequency” of dog attacks during the lambing season was way too high and that action was now required by the Departments of the Environment and Agriculture “on the control of dogs and responsible dog ownership”.

“I am aware of several cases of dog attacks happening on a weekly basis all over the country,” Mr Murphy added. “We would be encouraging sheep farmers to report all dog attacks to the IFA and this information will be used in the IFA’s campaign to get movement on dog control and responsible dog ownership. The IFA has taken the lead on this issue with a major publicity and awareness campaign in March involving radio, TV and press coverage in all the local and national media.”

The ‘Do You Know Where Your Dog Is’ received a huge amount of media coverage and plenty of robust reaction from farmers and indeed the general public. Mr Murphy said the IFA had met with the Department of the Environment and put detailed proposals to it on the action necessary to encourage responsible dog ownership. To report sheep attacks by marauding dogs, contact (01) 4260340.