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Calves could be banned from New Forest to protect walkers

A cow on the New Forest (Photo: stock image)
A cow on the New Forest (Photo: stock image)

THE verderers have warned new by-laws could be introduced to ban young calves from roaming the New Forest in a bid to protect the public from aggressive behaviour by their mothers.

Discussions around the issue of grazing cows and the safety of the public have escalated in response to a series of incidents which have seen walkers hospitalised after being attacked by cattle.

As reported in the A&T, in August last year 86-year-old Amelia Borelli was gored by a cow as she walked her dog near her home at Fritham, near Bramshaw, when it charged at her to protect its calf.

And last summer a dog was killed and its owner seriously injured after a herd of cows exhibited “unusually aggressive behaviour”. The herd was subsequently sent for slaughter because they could not be safely returned to the Forest.

The incidents have prompted the verderers to issue “clear advice” to commoners following meetings with a veterinary adviser.

As such, all commoners are being reminded of their obligations regarding individual animals which exhibit “mischievous or aggressive” tendencies.

The verderers have warned: “Such animals should not be turned out onto the Forest,” adding “most cattle owners will know which cows can be feisty when they have a calf.

"Those animals should be managed differently to the remainder of the herd and should be kept at home when they have a young calf, or sold.”

The advice continued that cows with calves younger than two weeks should not be on the Forest in a bid to reduce the risk of incidents involving members of the public.

The verderers acknowledge that even with these restrictions the risk to the public cannot be “eliminated completely”.

The advice continues: “The vet has said that while it is recognised that cows may be better calving on the Forest where they are used to living, there are practical issues with trying to catch and remove a cow that has recently had a calf.”

It concludes that cows will get used to having their calves away from the Forest.

In issuing this guidance verderers have also warned commoners that they have not ruled out introducing new by-laws which dictate the age at which calves can be put out onto the Forest.

The latest action comes after the Commoners Defence Association wrote to 200 of its members asking for cattle that are grazed on the Forest to be dehorned as a precautionary measure following the spate of recent incidents.

However, commoners have also called on the public to “play their part” and designed a series of posters advising how to behave around livestock.

Speaking last year, CDA vice-chairman and cattle-owning commoner Robert Stride declared: “There is a real lack of clear information given to the public about how to pass livestock safely.”

He added: “We have drafted a poster which clearly informs people of their responsibilities. We need the general public to help us and report any incidents of livestock worrying to the police or verderers.”

Discussions are currently under way with Dafra regarding a revision of the New Forest by-laws.

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