A FARMER is closing footpaths on his land to the public after some of his cattle contracted a disease from dog mess.

Huw Rowlands, of Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford, near Chester, blames irresponsible dog owners for putting the lives of cows and calves at risk and costing his business thousands of pounds.

It led him to make the decision to close ‘permissive footpaths’, which is a path allowed to be used by walkers by the landowner rather than a public right of way, from October 31 this year.

He said anyone entering his land after this date would be trespassing and could face legal action.

Mr Rowlands said: “Fields are not ‘just fields’ but grow crops either for our Red Poll cattle to eat, or to be harvested. Dog muck contains a parasite called neospora caninum which causes our cows to give birth to dead calves.

“Some of our animals have been infected due to dog walkers leaving their pets’ muck on the fields. There is no cure and infected cows have to be slaughtered.”

Grange Farm produces top quality Red Poll beef, produced to the highest environmental standards. The grass-fed cattle are kept in groups of between 20 and 30, and each is worth at least £1,000. Mr Rowlands estimated the issue has cost his farm at least £15,000.

Mr Rowlands, whose family have worked the land at Mickle Trafford since 1947, added: “Dog walkers who bag their dog muck and leave it hanging from fences and hedges are in addition responsible for the risk of cattle and wildlife choking and being killed by their refusal simply to take their mess to a bin.

“The welfare of our animals and wildlife is paramount and the risk posed to their health and wellbeing by irresponsible and trespassing dog walkers will not be tolerated.”

After opening the paths 10 years ago, Mr Rowlands said his family has recently suffered several incidents of verbal abuse and threatening behaviour from trespassing dog walkers.

Over the last year there has also been vandalism to fences, gates and signs leading to cattle escapes.

He emphasised that any further episodes would be dealt with in conjunction with the police and the National Farmers Union and could lead to prosecution.

“We’re now taking proactive steps to identify offenders and to take action against them,” he added.

“You do not have ‘the right’ to enter private land, to camp on it, to take illegal drugs on it, to ride all over it on horses, to steal fruit from it, to use it as a public toilet, or to let your dog run loose or worry cattle on it.

“We have suffered all of this in the last few weeks, and heard every excuse as to why this is ‘OK.’

“It is not OK, and that is why the permissive footpaths are closing at midnight on October 31.”

Paths in question are the Green Lane from the street near to the A56 Warrington Road, running through to Picton Lane adjacent to the sewage works, and the extension via the poplar plantation to the River Gowy and along its bank to the A56 close to the Shrewsbury Arms, and the path from Plemstall Lane near Glebe Meadows which passes behind Grange Farm and Trafford Mill and ends opposite the Shrewsbury Arms pub.