Litter and in particular dog waste are having a highly damaging impact on farmers and the health of cows and their calves.
Whilst countryside access has been a welcome reprieve for many over the past year, this increased footfall has led to a higher amount of litter and dog waste being left in countryside sites.
Dog waste can contain within it a disease called Neopsora, a parasite type organism that can infect cattle. If dog waste is left on a field, then a cow may come into contact with it either whilst grazing or when the grass is harvested.
Neopsora can potentially cause cows to miscarry their calves or cause the calves to be born with neurological problems.
Even if a dog is healthy and up to date with vaccinations, it can still carry Neopsora without their owners knowing.
Mark Frost, a tenant farmer at Norbury Park in Surrey, is particularly struggling with the disease and said: “Because of public access, we have always had to deal with some cases (of Neopsora). This has been about 5% in the past.
“But we are now up to a quarter of the herd infected because of the unprecedented year we have just had.
“We have calculated on a yearly basis that the disease is now costing us between £7,000 and £8,000.
“My father has been farming here for 42 years, and this is the most worrying time we’ve seen in that period. If this carries on it could have huge implications – we could get to the point where we can’t carry on.
“So please pick up your waste and take it home.”
Steve Mitchell, Surrey County Council’s Countryside Access and Operations Manager said: “Last year we have seen huge increases in the amount of visitors to our countryside sites.
“Whilst this access is really important and those sites have been invaluable, there are knock-on effects.
“Please come to Surrey’s wonderful countryside, but please respect it and understand the implications of what you might do.
“Minimise the impact of your visit and particularly, take your dog waste home.”