Suckler Cows and Calves: Your responsibilities and public liability
Cows and their calves on footpaths at this time of year are a cause of concern, both for farmers and for those using the footpaths. In an ideal world, diverting footpaths to go around headlands would be an easy process, making fencing off footpaths a more viable option, or a farm would have sufficient fields without footpaths in to avoid grazing suckler herds where they could encounter walkers.
In reality, moving footpaths is near impossible, fencing is too expensive and sufficient grazing in fields without footpaths isn’t always available.
However, as a farmer, there are some simple things you can do to reduce risk to the public and reduce the risk to your farm business should an accident happen.
- The most obvious thing to do is to consider which field cows and calves go in. If you have any prior knowledge that a cow has acted aggressively, do not put it in a field with a footpath. The cases which result in the courts going against the farmer tend to be those where there has been a previous incident or complaint about a certain cow and then she has gone on to injure someone.
- Conduct a risk assessment in all cases. This will show to insurers, the courts or anyone who may question it that you are running a competent farming business and have taken steps to assess, manage and minimise the risk.
- If looking to fence off footpaths, a double strand of electric fencing is more effective than a single strand. If a calf gets under a single strand of electric fencing, its mother will follow regardless if a walker gets in between them.
- Signs such as ‘Cows and calves in field’ are fine but avoid any signage which suggests that the livestock in the field may be dangerous, such as those with wording like ‘Beware’, ‘Danger’ or ‘Proceed With Caution’.
- Finally, and potentially most importantly from a business point of view, check your level of public liability insurance with your broker. We suggest £10 million indemnity as a minimum to ensure you are protected should an incident occur.