Walkers in the countryside are being warned against causing alarm to cattle – after a number of fatalities.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual has produced new signage for farmers to display at field entrances calling for walkers to move quietly and predictability, highlighting how livestock can react suddenly to people’s presence.
Incidents with livestock remain a major cause of fatal and serious injury to farm workers and the public, according to the latest accident figures. NFU Mutural has teamed up with the Farm Safety Foundation and the NFU for the joint safety campaign.
Some 27 people were killed in farming-related activities in the year to April 2023. As well as farmers and farm workers, they included six members of the public. Eight of the fatalities involved cattle.
The signs encourage walkers to keep dogs on leads but release them immediately if chased by cattle. They also suggest giving cows space if they are on or near the footpath, re-joining the route when safe to do so.
Half of all dog owners would keep their dog on the lead if chased by cattle, rather than letting go, according to a recent NFU Mutual survey. Some 86% of respondents said they would find signage about walking in fields with livestock helpful.
NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Hannah Binns said farmers were proud to feed the nation and enhance the environment. But it was important to remember that the countryside was also a place of work.
Farmers have a legal duty to consider the health and safety of people using public rights of way through their fields. Ms Binns said the signs aimed to highlight that walkers should enjoy the countryside safely.
Farm Safety Foundation manager Stephanie Berkeley said: “Farming activities can pose risks to you, your workers, and also to any contractors or visitors – including walkers, hikers and cyclists.”
NFU vice president David Exwood said: “When walking through a farm, it is crucial for people to remember it is a working environment and so they should prioritise their safety and remain vigilant at all times.
“We hope these signs will serve as a valuable reminder for walkers to be mindful of their surroundings, enabling everyone to appreciate the countryside responsibly and safely.”
Signs can be requested from local NFU Mutual agency offices.