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Sheep attacks and harassment: research

Findings from survey research on sheep worrying and wildlife attacks on sheep.


7. Time and financial impact on farmers of attacks

Time impacts of dog attacks

Survey respondents who had experienced an attack on their sheep in the last year were asked how much time they had spent dealing with the most recent incidents. Figure 7.1 shows the mean time in minutes spent on each task relating to their most recent dog incident. The mean total time spent dealing with a single incident was 5 hours and 19 minutes. The most time consuming of the specific tasks listed were personally treating injured sheep as a result of an attack, which farmers reported spending an average of one hour and 17 minutes doing, and investigating an attack, which took farmers an average of 67 minutes. Those who said they had spent 'other time' related to the incident were asked for more detail. The most common responses were: time spent rounding up scattered sheep, checking on sheep after the incident, re-mothering lambs with ewes and repairing fences.

Using agricultural wages to provide a notional cost of this time, the average time cost of each incident is £50.33 and the total estimated time cost to the sector per annum is around £350,000.[49]

Our qualitative research revealed the considerable time spent by farmers dealing with the "collateral" damage of incidents, such as re-establishing the relationship between ewes and their lambs, following a disturbance by a dog, which might explain the large amount of time reported as "other time spent related to the incident":

"If you go back to the ewe that has twin lambs and one split off. Well, first of all you don't just go and pick it up and drop it beside and say "there is your lamb back missus". It doesn't work, you've got to put the [sheep] dog round the ewe with the other lamb and hold it there, because that lamb, if you put it down, will just follow you. If you move away it will follow your heel. That lamb will run after you, or it will run away that way or that way. If you're very, very, lucky it might run to the mother."

(Sheep farmer, East Central Scotland)

Figure 7.1 Mean time in minutes spent dealing with a dog incident

Figure 7.1 Mean time in minutes spent dealing with a dog incident

Base: All whose sheep have experienced a dog attack in the last year (293)

Time impact of wildlife attacks

Figure 7.2 shows the mean time farmers spent dealing with various tasks as a result of their most recent wildlife attack. The average total time spent dealing with an incident was 5 hours and 24 minutes, in line with the time spent dealing with dog attacks. As was the case with dog attacks, investigating the attack and personally treating injured sheep were amongst the most time-consuming of the listed tasks. Other time spent related to the incidents included increased monitoring of sheep; personally destroying injured sheep; and making arrangements with a gamekeeper.

Figure 7.2 Mean time in minutes spent dealing with a wildlife incident

Figure 7.2 Mean time in minutes spent dealing with a wildlife incident

Base: All whose sheep have experienced a wildlife attack in the last year (840)

Again, using agricultural wages to provide a notional cost of this time, the average time cost of each incident is £51.08 and the estimated total time cost to the sector per annum is around £2,500,000.[50]

Financial impact on farmers of attacks

Figure 7.3 below shows the estimated mean costs incurred from farmers' most recent attacks by dogs and wildlife.[51]

The mean total financial cost of each dog incident to farmers was £697.33, while the mean cost of each wildlife attack was £391.82. Respondents consistently reported the value of lost sheep as the biggest financial cost of attacks, with the highest figures reported for a single incident being £10,000 for a wildlife attack and £8,000 for a dog attack. The value of aborted lambs was the second biggest financial impact on farmers, with the highest estimated cost incurred from a wildlife attack being £7,000, and the highest estimated cost of a dog attack £9,999. The other costs mentioned included the costs of additional labour involved in dealing with the incident; the costs of additional feed for nurturing injured sheep; and costs of hunting wildlife. Dog attacks tended to cost considerably more on average to farmers in the value of aborted lambs, in veterinary bills, in disposing of carcasses and in other costs.

Figure 7.3 Mean financial costs incurred by sheep farmers from most recent dog and wildlife attacks

Figure 7.3 Mean financial costs incurred by sheep farmers from most recent dog and wildlife attacks

Base: All who had experienced a wildlife attack (840) or a dog attack (293) in the last year

Insurance claims and other compensation

Just nine per cent of farmers who had experienced a dog attack on their sheep in the last year reported receiving money in connection with the incident, either from an insurance claim or some other source (this might be, for example, compensation from the dog owner or from the courts[52]). The mean amount amongst those receiving money was £416.96, while the median amount was £185.10.

Not a single respondent reported receiving any money (whether insurance money or any other form of compensation) for their most recent wildlife attack, and 99% said they did not intend to make an insurance claim in the future relating to the most recent incident, with just 1% expressing uncertainty about whether they might do so.

Attitudes to insurance

The qualitative research indicated that the low number of claims could largely be explained by farmers' not insuring their sheep. Most farmers were skeptical that insuring their sheep against attacks (whether for dogs or wildlife) would be worthwhile. They typically made reference to the perceived high, and increasing, cost of insurance premiums, expressing a view that these would only increase further if they were ever to make a claim, offsetting any financial benefit they might receive in compensation.

"The cost of insurance (puts me off), and the fact they keep pushing up the prices."

(Sheep farmer, East Central Scotland)

"It becomes very difficult, any number of claims, your insurance premium just goes up."

(Sheep farmer, NE Scotland)

They also referred to the difficulty of providing sufficient evidence.

"Insurers are always wanting proof, and the proof is all gone in the blink of an eye."

(Sheep farmer, Argyll and Bute)

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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