Spring worries


KEEP THEM SAFE A vulnerable newborn lamb in a thicket of rushes.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

March heralds the full flow of the spring lambing season. This can be a stressful and worrying time for farmers as they try as best they can to tend to pregnant ewes and ewes with lambs at foot.
One of the most serious concerns at this time of year is the possibility of dog attacks on pregnant and lactating ewes. Year in year out, despite repeated media coverage, there are still many dog attacks on sheep at this time of year, resulting in large losses both in terms of ewes and lambs.
Every dog, from the smallest to the largest, has the potential to become involved in sheep worrying. It’s in their DNA after all.
Even the sight of a dog, or dogs, near fields full of sheep and lambs can be enough to stress sheep to such an extent that they lose their lambs, through miscarriage or by the trampling and smothering of lambs.
All dog owners should be aware of the fact that their dog has the potential to cause serious problems at this time of year should they get out unsupervised, especially at night. Ensuring  that your dog is securely housed is vital.  
Keeping your charge on a lead, especially when walking in the countryside where sheep are lambing, is also crucially important in springtime. It goes without saying that every dog should have a microchip, and that this chip should be registered on one of the national databases. This is a legal requirement of dog ownership.
Farmers have the right to protest their flocks from out of control worrying dogs and nobody wants their dog to end up being killed because they are worrying sheep and lambs.
If your dog goes missing, it is vital that you contact all the powers that be, who may be in a position to help you locate the dog before it does damage or causes an accident. Contact the dog warden, nearby animal rescue charities, local veterinary practices and the guards. You should also use social media as much as possible to get the word out there. It is amazing the number of dogs who are reunited with their owners through Facebook and other social-media platforms nowadays.
If you hear unusual barking or sounds that you think might indicate that a dog attack might be taking place near your home, especially at night, please don’t hesitate to contact the guards.
You should also contact some local sheep farmers that you might know to alert them. Some farmers’ animals are in fields away from the farm, and the farmer may not hear or see them for a considerable time period. Your phone call might be the difference between heavy losses and a flock kept safe.
Spring is a wonderful time of year, with regrowth and new birth. The sight of spring lambs dancing and playing amongst the daffodils is second to none. Please don’t let your dog be the one who destroys this pleasure.

Veterinarian Conal Finnerty MRCVS practises at the Skeldale Vet Clinic in Ballinrobe and Belmullet. Follow the clinic on Facebook, or call 094 9541980 or 087 9185350 to make an appointment.