SADDLEWORTH SHEEP farmers are facing a threat to their flocks, which are being plundered on Saddleworth’s moors.
It is believed up to 50 pregnant ewes have vanished in recent weeks, some carrying up to four lambs.
For farmer James Crowther, the third generation of his family to farm 5,000 acres of rugged moorland, this is a harrowing blow in the fight to protect his flock.
He said: “We are currently working around the clock with hardly any sleep trying to ensure our ewes give birth safely.
“But these raids and subsequent deaths to pregnant ewes and loss of their lambs is very tough,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking to see the carcasses abandoned in fields.”
Locals took to social media to condemn the raids and express concerns over the macabre deaths.
GMP’s Saddleworth and Lees neighbour policing team confirmed, in addition to sheep carcasses found on the moor, some pelts from Saddleworth flocks were found in other parts of Oldham.
Sgt Neil Barker, said: “We have mounted extra patrols across the Saddleworth farming communities.
“We’d ask people to remain vigilant and report anyone they suspect is tampering with flocks.”
In the meantime, police are also investigating after farmers complained mountain and off-road cyclists are ignoring ‘no trespassing’ signs and terrifying ewes.
Darren Hough, 51, farms 235 acres of land spread over Wharmton, one of Saddleworth’s highest and most distinguished landmarks.
He is supported by his daughter, Amy, a 21-year-old university student, and his father Bryan, 84, a legend in sheep farming who has written a book about his life.
Darren said: “Some mountain bikers are crazy. We have put signs up yet they think it’s okay to ignore them and frighten the life out of ewes. It’s a big joke to them.
“Many riders travel in groups at night. They use bright lights on their bikes which create confusion and panic causing sheep to scatter and placing them in danger of injury.”
A year ago, Darren lost some of his pregnant flock and newly-born lambs after horrific attacks by marauding dogs let off leads by careless owners.
“All we ask is visitors to the countryside remember the sheep are our livelihood,” Darren said.
“As it is, warning notices are torn down – we even had an abusive one put in its place. Some people have no respect for our farms.”
Meanwhile, the National Sheep Association is urging members who experience sheep worrying by dogs to share their views in an online survey.
Last year’s survey focused on the human impact of dog attacks, finding 85 per cent of affected farmers experienced stress and 78 per cent were worried about future attacks.
Farmers can complete the survey online at: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NSAsheepworrying17