Cattle farmers are being advised to make sure their public liability insurance is up-to-date to avoid a costly court case should a member of the public get injured while on their land.
According to the latest data, cows are regarded as being the most dangerous large animal in the UK, with regular reports in the spring and summer of people being attacked and trampled while out walking.
The need to have cover is even more important especially at this time of the year, as cows with calves are now generally out in the fields and is when they feel most vulnerable to what they perceive as intruders.
Matthew Peters of Bruton Knowles rural team is now recommending cattle farmers double check their policies and make sure sufficient signs are in place, especially on public footpaths, warning the public of the dangers.
Matthew said: “There is an element of responsibility from both the public and farmer. However farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about walkers and members of the public who should be very wary when crossing a field that is occupied by cows and calves.
“We’re all aware of the danger a bull can pose but fewer people realise that cows, particularly those protecting newly-born calves, can also be dangerous. With a typical cow weighing about 1,000lb the best advice would be to stay clear.
“If a public footpath does cross a farmers land then placing clear signs is a good way to inform the public of the dangers and will help mitigate any potential issues. Those walking dogs should also be told to keep them on a lead and under control.”
According to the law, if an incident does occur on a public footpath that crosses a farmer’s land, it is in fact the farmer’s responsibility.
The law states that Occupiers Liability Acts 1957 and 1984 require land managers to show a reasonable duty of care towards other people. Further to this, the Animals Act 1971 makes the keeper of an animal "strictly liable" in most cases for injuries caused by their stock.
Matthew added: “Incidents like this are very rare with the vast majority of the public taking great care when crossing fields, while respecting the presence of any animals.
“Farmers are also in general happy to let members of the public cross their land and as long as they stick to the paths will be perfectly safe.”