THIS HORRIFIC picture of a pregnant sheep mauled to death by a dog highlights the plight of Saddleworth hill farmers at the start lambing season.
The pitiful carcass of a two-year-old ewe, pregnant for the first time, was found by Darren Hough at his 265-acre farm at Wharmton, Dobcross.
Darren, who made the grim discovery near Saddleworth golf course, said sadly: “The ewe was due to give birth for the first time on March 11.
“I didn’t see it happen but with the damage caused to her I would say it would have been a big dog which must have been with someone or it would have damaged more sheep.”
And just weeks later, the farmer, who is the third generation of his family to farm the rugged hillside, lost two more ewes just weeks before they were due to give birth.
The sheep suffered severe bites to their faces, legs, backs and shoulders in the dog attacks, and Darren’s checks on his other pregnant sheep have shown many have got bites too.
“Some of the sheep have suffered terrible injuries which leaves them in dreadful pain. It’s very upsetting.”
Now The National Sheep Association (NSA) and RSPCA have teamed up in a nationwide campaign highlighting how sheep deaths and injuries cause serious animal welfare concern, emotional stress and financial cost to farmers.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, said: “A growing number of our members continue to tell us of some horrendous attacks they have suffered to their livestock.
“It is not only the harrowing injuries which out of control dogs have inflicted, but also losses they have suffered as a result of dogs simply chasing livestock.
“The risk of ewes aborting is extremely high after suffering the stress of been chased by dogs and lambs can become separated from their mother at a critical early bonding stage.”
Tony Woodley, RSPCA inspector, added: “No dog owner sets out on a walk to hurt sheep but sadly that is what can happen if the dog is allowed to run loose.
“Many dogs, if given the opportunity, will show interest in livestock so even if your pet is normally calm, gentle, obedient and docile, don’t be complacent.
“Dog owners should also remember they could be prosecuted and their dog could be shot dead if they are caught worrying sheep.”
Meantime, farmers are advised to erect signs warning dog owners where livestock are grazing and keep fencing in good repair to ensure sheep don’t stray.