A farmer is calling on his landlord the National Trust to enforce a mandatory ‘dogs on leads' policy while walking through fields with livestock after loose dogs chased a heavily in-calf cow off a 30ft ledge.
Witnesses said the five-year-old Highland cow ‘Gladis' fell to her death after being chased by two dogs, thought to be Labradors, off the lead on Wednesday evening (May 26).
Cameron Farquharson, who farms at Eggardon Hill, Dorset, an iron age hillfort popular with tourists and walkers, said he and his wife had been left ‘heartbroken'.
He said: "I understand someone might not have wanted to admit it was their dog who was worrying the cows but they could have called me or the National Trust and said there was a cow in difficulty. I cannot believe someone would just walk away. Gladis fell 30ft and broke her neck but perhaps we could have saved her calf which was full term if we had known."
It was not until the next morning that Mr Farquharson was alerted to the tragedy.
"A witness said he had seen two Labradors chasing the cows and running riot earlier in the evening. I just do not understand the mentality," he added.
"In my view there should be a blanket ban on walking dogs off the lead in the countryside but that is not going to happen so the next best thing is for the National Trust to enforce a rule of no dogs without leads on their land where there is livestock. For us here it is only 600 yards where there is livestock in the field, then the dogs can go off lead again.
"Every year we lose eight to 10 sheep to livestock worrying but this is the first time we have lost a cow."
Mr Farquharson said issues with walkers had increased since lockdown, with signs asking walkers to keep dogs on leads frequently being ripped down.
He added: "We graze Highlands on this ground to do a job other than for meat production. They are light footed and serve as an important part of the ecosystem here, helping wildlife and flora and fauna to flourish, helping to boost biodiversity and species such as ground nesting birds. Dogs off leads ride roughshod over everything we are trying to achieve for the environment."
A trust spokesperson said: "We were very saddened to hear of the incident that took place last Thursday on Eggardon Hill in Dorset.
"We ask all of our visitors to follow the countryside code and to keep their dogs on leads around livestock. We are working to raise awareness of the issues that dogs can pose to livestock in the countryside and are keen to do all we can to help our tenant farmers protect their livestock, particularly when animals are at their most vulnerable.
"We are aware there are many responsible dog owners that enjoy our places, but unfortunately some do not adhere to signage or instructions despite our best efforts. We have launched a Canine Code of Conduct to promote responsible dog ownership and want to work with our tenant farmers to promote it."
The farmer, who posted about the attack on Facebook, said he had been taken aback by the outpouring of sympathy and support from the public, with many offering to donate money to help him buy another cow.
He urged anyone wishing to donate to do so through the Farming Help charities which offer aid to farmers in need of financial and emotional support. Visit www.farminghelp.co.uk.