Spring is a wonderful time of the year, with newborn lambs and calves going out to grass and drills and planters working to get this year’s crops in the ground.
However, this spring turnout will not just involve cattle and sheep.
Farmers are bracing themselves for the human turnout – an influx of visitors to the countryside as Covid restrictions ease.
And with this comes the unwanted stress of having to protect their property and animals from those – mainly the minority – who seem to have little, or no, respect for the countryside.
We have already seen this since the start of the pandemic with countless reports of problems associated with extra people visiting farms.
Farming organisations have been on the PR offensive this week urging people to take care when visiting the countryside and reminding them that farms are also workplaces.
Farmers union NFU Scotland launched a #walkieswithoutworries campaign to promote responsible dog ownership, and an online portal for people to log any problems they experience with those accessing the countryside.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual has also been encouraging farmers to put up signs asking people to keep their dogs on leads.
It says a survey of more than 1,200 dog owners found 64% let their pets roam free in the countryside despite half saying their dog doesn’t always come back when called. However, 95% said they would keep their pets on a lead if they see a sign warning that livestock are grazing nearby.
Meanwhile, landowners body Scottish Land & Estates says livestock worrying is not the only concern caused by the Covid-19 induced influx of visitors to the countryside.
It says incidents of fly-tipping, littering and antisocial behaviour are all on the rise thanks to more people visiting the great outdoors during the pandemic.
Farmers have the tricky task of striking a balance between being welcoming to the public – their customers – and ensuring their businesses are protected.
Educating members of the public is key: familiarise yourself with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code; put up signs telling people where they can and cannot walk on your farm; and most importantly report any problems you have.
The countryside is not a playground and people must treat it as they would anywhere else.
A farmer wouldn’t let his cattle run riot through a shopping centre and leave muck everywhere, so surely it isn’t too much to ask that walkers keep their dogs out of fields and take their rubbish home.
- Gemma Mackenzie is Farming Editor at The Press and Journal.