A LANCASHIRE farmer is urging dog owners to clear up after their animals after 16 of his cows aborted after eating contaminated grass.
His plea follows a harrowing few months during which vets term a “storm” hit Lower Alston Farm on Riverside in Ribchester.
It was discovered that cows in his prized pedigree herd had become infected with neospora, a parasitic illness which is transmitted to cattle only through dog excrement, which has contaminated grass and silage.
The spate of abortions has left Dave Talbot and his family counting both an emotional and financial cost.
He said: “In spring we had quite a few cattle which aborted their calves. We had some tests done and they came up with neospora.”
He continued: “We have a fully pedigree Holstein Friesian herd. They are quite expensive cows. We put a lot of effort and time into the breeding. It’s just you feel it’s out of your control.
“If we test for a disease on the farm we can usually do something about it, vaccinate for it and then eradicate it.
“This is just totally out of control. The cows will always be a carrier of it so we have to do is try to breed it out.”
Vet Tracey Towers of Oakhill Veterinary Centre, Goosnargh, said: “The end result is crippling financially for the farmer but also the most likely end is the removal of the cow that aborted. It will be sold and most likely culled. It’s devastating all round. There’s absolutely no doubt that if a cow never came anywhere near dog muck they would never get this infection – do pick up poo.”
Several public footpaths run across Dave’s farm and now he is planning to put up notices in the spring reminding the public of their responsibility to clear up after their pets and not let the fields become a dog lavatory.
He has also turned to the local Parish Council for help and an advisory notice was placed on the village noticeboard warning that local farms had been affected.
Dave estimated that the calves were worth around £300 each and lost milk production for each animal amounts to £1,500.