A FARMER is to close his land to the public with immediate effect after reports of alleged anti-social behaviour.

Last week, the Leader and Standard reported that Huw Rowlands, of Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford, near Chester, had made the drastic decision to close permissive footpaths on his land on October 31 to protect his cattle from a parasite picked up from dog mess.

However, as a result of several “alleged incidents” recently, Mr Rowlands has sought and been granted permission from Natural England, the government’s adviser for the natural environment, to close the footpaths immediately.

One person on the Mickle Trafford Village Facebook page alleged that a woman dog walker had been threatened by a man with a shotgun.

Mr Rowlands said he knew nothing about the incident other than what was posted on social media.

He said he has now received a response that he could close the permissive footpaths immediately, should put up appropriate signage, and that Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) would be informed so that the paths could be removed from its maps.

Mr Rowlands said: “Given the seriousness of what has happened or alleged to have happened, we take public safety very seriously, I am closing the paths on public safety grounds.”

He said that access on to his land would be closed off with “locks and chains” tomorrow.

Grange Farm produces top quality Red Poll beef, produced to the highest environmental standards. Each animal is worth at least £1,000, and Mr Rowlands estimated the issue has cost his farm at least £15,000 with cattle having to be slaughtered and calves born dead.

Announcing the closures of the paths on his land along the A56 Warrington Road last week, 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.”

“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 well-being by irresponsible and trespassing dog walkers will not be tolerated.

Following the announcement, Mr Rowlands received support on social media.

On Facebook, Mona Walterson said: “How do you sympathise with people who cannot be bothered to clean up their dogs mess? No comparison can be made with someone trying to earn a living and look after the welfare of their animals.”

The 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 The Grange Farm and Trafford Mill and ends opposite the Shrewsbury Arms pub.