TWO cows have died after eating grass and hedge cuttings which had been dumped on a verge in the New Forest.
The animals died in agony, one just as the vet arrived to deal with her, and the other shortly after she was treated as she was too ill to survive.
Owner Alison Lance, a commoner, found a large dumping of garden waste on a grass verge near where the cows were discovered, not far from her home in Ogdens, Fordingbridge.
She said: “We found one cow already dying one day last week, sadly she died just as the vet got to her.
“In the event she could not have been saved because, just after this and very near to where we found her, we discovered a large dump of chipped garden waste containing laurel and leylandii among other things, with evidence that cattle had been in it and eating it.
“Then on Monday a cow who had been in the same area became sick and we called the vet out immediately. They came and treated the animal but although she rallied a little she was very ill.
“It is very hard to treat an animal who has been poisoned in this way.
“She was in a lot of distress and we had to take the sad decision to have her euthanised.”
Alison said the dumped garden waste was so large she and her husband had to use a tractor to clear it, saying: “It didn’t fit in a half-ton bag.”
In April this year a pony died after eating a grass cuttings left by the cattle grid at Shirley Holms between Sway and Boldre. It is illegal to dump anything in the forest as it is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).
Alison is now warning people not to dump garden waste in the Forest.
She said: “Unfortunately gardeners not infrequently charge their customers to remove garden waste and, instead of paying to dispose of it legally, just dump it.
“This can have dreadful consequences but I’m sure most people aren’t aware of this. We have lost several ponies and cattle over the years, poisoned by garden waste either dumped or thrown over the fence by people who think they are helping the Forest animals. Grass cuttings are particularly toxic.”
Earlier this year the A&T reported how a two-day-old foal owned by Alison suffered serious neck wounds after being attacked by a dog in the forest.
She was saved only after a group of friends worked round the clock holding her head up to feed from her mother as she was unable to do it herself.
Alison said: “I’m glad to report that she is healing well, although she has some very bad scars.”
In 2017 one of her foals died after being bitten by a dog while another foal attacked last year was saved. Six years ago Alison nearly lost a calf which had been badly mauled by a dog.
She said: “It is very sad when you lose an animal, especially when it is so preventable as in this instance with the garden waste. People need to learn that dumping this in the Forest can be lethal to livestock.”
Tony Hockley, chair of New Forest Commoners’ Defence Association, said: “I’m very sorry to hear this. We and our partners have put a lot of effort into warning people of the dangers presented to livestock by garden waste. This causes real harm and considerable animal suffering.
“The grazing cattle are essential to the exceptional ecology of this special landscape, but keeping cattle at small scale is very challenging nowadays. To lose cows in this pointless way, simply due to ignorance or laziness, is devastating for their owner.
“I implore local people to resist the urge to dump anything on the New Forest. It is dangerous, illegal, and completely pointless.”