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8th March 2024

Friends Attacked By Cows Leads To Fine For Farmer

Cows in a field looking at the camera

Two friends walking a popular route near Masham, North Yorkshire, were confronted by a herd of cows on 25th July 2021.

The pair had been walking a dog on his lead across fields and public rights of way near Shaws Farm.

Upon entering one of the fields through which their path cut, they noticed a collection of cows – some with calves – standing directly in the walkway. Deciding not to navigate their way through, they passed through a small gap in a hedge. It was at this point that they spotted another cow, now in close proximity, along with two calves. The mother proceeded to attack the dog and the pair had to make a quick getaway.

With no clear escape route, they found themselves cornered by around 15 cows. One of the pair was knocked to the ground and trampled and needed to be helped to her feet before they decided to climb a tree to avoid further injury.

The alarm was raised and emergency services arrived at the scene with the injured party being airlifted to hospital.

It transpired she had sustained seven broken ribs, hoof marks to her chest and legs and severe internal injuries, the effects of which are still felt almost three years on.

This incident highlights the dangers posed to members of the public by cattle in fields which include public access and rights of way.

Upon investigation, the Health & Safety Executive concluded that insufficient measures had been taken to avoid conflict between cattle and calves and members of the public, especially when cows are known to be protective of their young.

A sign warning of the herd had been in place historically but had been trampled, removed and not replaced.

The HSE provide formal advice to farmers on cattle and public access in England and Wales which includes:

  • ‘Assess whether animals in the herd are generally placid and well-behaved
  • Wherever possible keep cattle in fields that do not have public access, especially when cattle are calving or have calves at foot.
  • Assess whether calves kept with the herd will affect the behaviour of older cattle.
  • Consider whether it is reasonably practicable to temporarily fence alongside a public right of way so that the cattle and people are kept separate. Take care not to obstruct rights of way by fencing across them.
  • Check paths are clearly marked so that users do not enter fields without public access.
  • Consider putting a sign at any gate, stile or other access points to a field or open area such as fell, hill or moorland if there is a bull, or cows with calves, at large there.
  • Check that fences, gates, stiles etc are safe and fit for their purpose.’

Martin Falshaw of Falshaw Partners, Shaws Farm, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(3) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. He was fined £770.50 and ordered to pay £4,539 in costs.

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