A perennial problem


AT RISK As lambing season approaches, the prospect of sheep worrying and dog attacks becomes a huge concern for farmers once again.

The vet's view
Conal Finnerty

Thankfully the long dreary days and nights of January are behind us. As I write this, I am looking out to the garden where I can just see the beginnings of spring’s return, with the daffodils just starting to pop through the soil.
This is my favourite time of year, with the promise of new growth and rebirth. There is nothing like seeing the evidence of longer brighter days just around the corner. I get a sense that the birds are that little bit chirpier, and they seem to have a spring in their step (sorry for the pun).
As nice as this time of year is, it brings with it dangers for the country’s sheep flock. Many of the flock’s estimated 2.5 million breeding ewes will be giving birth to this year’s lambs in the coming weeks and months. This is a worrying time of year for sheep farmers, with so many elements of their farming year dependent on a successful springtime.
One of the perennial worries they have is the danger of attack from uncontrolled dogs. Despite the widespread media coverage – both print and digital – every single year, there seems to be no reduction in the number of attacks and losses suffered annually.
As the season starts, we need to remember be extra careful about controlling our dogs and making sure we know where they are at all time, both day and night.
The old advice remains: Any dog has the capability to worry and traumatise a sheep flock and/or be led astray by others in a pack. Even the sight of a dog at this time of year can be traumatising to pregnant or recently birthed flocks, and so it is advisable to try as best as one can to walk dogs away from sheep fields.
Remember also that it is a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped, licenced and, most importantly, under control when out walking in a public place.
Getting into the good habit of checking that your dog or dogs are securely housed at night time is a good habit to develop. Always make sure their housing is escape-proof. It may sound like a broken record, but year in year out hundreds if not thousands of sheep are maimed and killed by marauding dogs, and thousands of euros in income are lost due to ewe and lamb losses.
Don’t let your dog be part of this years statistics by letting it run uncontrolled this spring. Let’s together try to eliminate the pictures of devastated sheep flocks that appear on our TV screens and in our newspapers by ensuring we know where our dogs are day and night.  

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.