Farmers across the south west are being warned to watch out for livestock worrying as the cost of claims has reached a record level.

New figures show that the cost of dog attacks on livestock reported to NFU Mutual rose by 67 per cent across the UK in the past two years. The total cost to the industry in 2017 is estimated at £1.6m.

The south west was the third worst affected part of the UK by cost, after Scotland and the Midlands, while the average cost of a claim rose by over 50% to nearly £1,300.

7 per cent of dog owners admitted that their pets had chased livestock in the past.

With many families expected to visit the south west countryside during half-term and the Easter holidays, the insurer has launched a campaign urging dog owners to keep their pets on a lead at all times and for people to report out-of-control dogs to a local farmer or the police.

Chris Roberts, NFU Mutual south west regional manager, said: “As the insurer of nearly three-quarters of the UK’s farmers and many hobby farmers, we are sadly all too aware of the heartbreak and huge financial loss that dog attacks cause.

“For small farmers in particular, livestock worrying is devastating because it has a huge impact on their productivity. While insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, there is a knock-on effect on breeding programmes that can take years to overcome.

“The number of incidents reported to NFU Mutual shows only part of the picture, as not all farmers have insurance in place to cover livestock worrying and based on claims to us, we estimate the cost to agriculture was £1.6 million last year.”

To help reduce the risk of a dog worrying attack on your sheep or cattle, NFU Mutual advises the following:

- Check stock regularly in case any have been attacked

- When possible, keep sheep in fields away from footpaths

- Put up signs warning dog owners to keep their pets under control on your land

- Maintain fences, walls and hedges to make it more difficult for dogs to get into grazing fields

- Report any attacks to the police immediately

- Ask neighbours to alert you if they see attacks or loose dogs near your livestock