Walkers who are not familiar with the countryside and have descended on the countryside during the coronavirus lockdown are thought to behind a rise in the number of dog attacks on livestock.
NFU Mutual said its claims figures had spiked since the stay at home measures were put in place in early March, with people taking to rural areas for their permitted daily exercise.
The insurer’s rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “There was a promising start to 2020, and our claims figures suggested a decrease in attacks which was welcome news and bears testament to the campaigning that had been taking place.
“However, since the lockdown there have been reports from across the country of livestock worrying incidents and our initial estimates suggest there could be as much as a 15 per cent rise in the number of claims reported to us during this period.
“There is a concern that an increasing amount of dog owners whose pets are not familiar with livestock are using farmland for coronavirus isolation walks.”
Ms Davidson said the increased number of walkers and threat of dog attacks was putting additional strain on farmers who were having to spend additional time patrolling flocks. Walkers were also failing to clear up after their dogs, which can spread disease to livestock.
She added: “There are also concerns that high numbers of people using farmland footpaths for exercise are putting older farmers at risk.
“We are urging people to maintain social distancing of two metres apart and not put others, including farmers, their families and other rural dwellers at risk.
“Walking dogs on a lead also ensures people can safely keep two metres away from others.”