Everyone loves going for walks in the country.
It is hard not to with such amazing scenery, crisp fresh air and abundance of nature. There is just something homely and tranquil about it.
Yet the countryside is also a hectic workplace for farmers up and down the country who are just trying to make a living the best way they know how.
As farmers, we want everyone to be able to enjoy the countryside as much as we do taking care of it, but we really appreciate some respect for our workplace when you are out and about on your weekend strolls.
Here are nine things farmers would like countryside walkers to remember…
1. Cows live in the countryside too!
Contrary to social media opinion, cows, bulls and calves still occupy the fields on a regular basis and are often found chudding happily away without a care in the world.
But be prepared for their reaction to you and your dog, especially if there is young livestock nearby.
After all, cows are protective of their newborn young – something seven year old me discovered!
Remember to remain quiet and calm when walking through a field of cows and calves, avoiding any startling movements that may spook them.
And should the worst happen, let GO of your dog and its lead – it can outrun a cow, meaning you can get to safety separately, saving yourself buckets of sweat and a lot of swearing!
2. Pick up your dog muck
Dog poo is known to spread Neosporosis – a disease causing cows to abort their calves or become infected if carried to term.
It is a massive pet peeve for farmers, since it only takes dog walkers a few seconds to pick up poo and dispose of it correctly, but failure to do so can cost a farmer his livelihood!
Poo really isn’t a big deal – farmers deal with tons of it on a daily basis, whether cleaning out sheds, milking cows or muck-spreading.
So take some responsibility and clean up after your pooch – after all you really wouldn’t like it if we came and left our cow crap in your back garden!
3. Buy an up-to-date map .. and stick to it!
Like most things in life, changes can happen and land is no exception to this.
New ownership means that public footpaths are often redirected to suit a farmers’ long term plan, meaning you should use an up-to-date map to avoid trespassing and being shouted at!
It will also save you knocking on farm house doors/ walking into lambing sheds to ask for directions and taking up a farmer’s precious time, meaning you have more time to explore the countryside, and the farmer can carry on with his daily tasks like normal.
4. Leave the gates alone
If you find the gate open, leave it open.
If you find the gate closed, leave it closed.
Farmers leave gates exactly how they want them and nothing is more frustrating than moving a flock of sheep or herd of heifers to find someone has shut the gate which they are supposed to be turning into!
Just leave the gates alone. Please.
5. Don’t interfere
Don’t get me wrong, farmers appreciate your concern and are grateful when you inform us about something wrong you discovered on your walks.
But more often than not, we are aware that our tup is lame or that there is a gap in the fence and we are dealing with it. There really is no need for you to interfere.
Unless it is something urgent, such as the pigs have escaped and are making a mud-bath of the village green, presume we have it covered!
6. Unless a sheep is on its back
Please intervene if you see a sheep on its back struggling to get up – it is ‘rigged’ and will not be able to get up by itself.
7. Don’t rely on 3G
It may be the 21st century but the countryside still has sparse 3G and limited signal!
Chances are google maps will fail to load and you’ll be stranded in a field completely lost, with limited signal to call for help should an emergency occur.
And whilst you think you may look really cool re-enacting the Simba scene, you just look like a daft townie to farmers, who forgot to buy an up-to-date map and lack a common sense of direction.
Just put your smartphone away and enjoy the countryside in all its glory. You can Instagram that photo of the view once you are back home with a cuppa.
8. It is private for a reason
Farmyards are incredibly busy and sometimes dangerous workplaces, making them private for a reason!
Just stick to the footpath.
We are not trying to hide anything from you, rather prevent an accident from occurring – we are often not aware of your presence and so have not factored it into our (mental) risk assessment of our task.
The last thing we want is for a member of the public to be hurt on our farm. So please just stick to the footpath, and if you do have to cross a farmyard to reach your destination be quick and quiet – no dawdling!
9. Keep your dog on a lead around livestock
The countryside is a great place to exercise your dogs but please remember to keep them on a lead around livestock.
If I have to shout at any more dog walkers, I will go blue in the face!
Yes, most of you keep your dogs on leads when in fields with livestock and I cannot thank you enough.
But for those that don’t, try telling the farmer who has found his beloved flock dead, maned and stressed your excuses: ‘my dog would never chase or kill a sheep/ he’s so well trained he doesn’t need to be on a lead / she’s too small to do any damage’ and then watch his reaction.
As owners, you should realise dogs have sudden instincts and every dog is capable of harming sheep, regardless of temperament, size, breed etc. Just take some RESPONSIBILITY.
The last thing farmers want to do is lawfully shoot your pooch but sometimes there is no other alternative.
Just keep your dog on a lead around livestock. It is that simple.
So those are my top nine things I, as a young farmer, would like countryside walkers to remember during their weekend strolls.
It really is possible for everyone to enjoy the countryside and still be respectful to the people and animals living and working there!