Fordham farmer calls for dog walkers to be responsible during coronavirus pandemic

Gemma Maxwell (left) with her son Douglas at Moor Farm in Fordham. Picture: GEMMA MAXWELL

Gemma Maxwell (left) with her son Douglas at Moor Farm in Fordham. Picture: GEMMA MAXWELL - Credit: Archant

A livestock farmer from Fordham is calling for dog walkers to keep their pets under control as the lambing season reaches its peak.

Gemma's son Douglas. Picture: GEMMA MAXWELL

Gemma's son Douglas. Picture: GEMMA MAXWELL - Credit: Archant

Gemma Maxwell is used to seeing residents take their pets for a walk along the footpaths surrounding Moor Farm, which she has been running with partner Harry for six years.

Gemma takes care of 95 Charollais and 40 Dalesbred lambs, and although she does not want to turn anyone away, she wants those that decide to visit the farm to be considerate, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I fully understand and sympathize with the need for people to exercise themselves and their dogs, where it’s easy to implement social distancing,” she said.

“It is nice that people who come regularly will come and have a look.

Some of the sheep that Gemma takes care of at Moor Farm. Picture: GEMMA MAXWELL

Some of the sheep that Gemma takes care of at Moor Farm. Picture: GEMMA MAXWELL - Credit: Archant

“I would, however, urge the dog walkers who are not used to exercising their dogs where there are livestock, to please keep their dogs under control.

“I fear there will be people who spend time with their dog off the lead, despite the signs that there are newborn lambs everywhere.

Most Read

“It is especially important at this time of year with lambing season in full swing. Even if dogs don’t kill the sheep, the sheep will run off and leave their lambs to die.”

Gemma, whose three-year-old son Douglas enjoys seeing the sheep, also looks after a combination of Dalesbred and Teeswater rams with all the flock acquiring a high health status.

John Maxwell, Gemma’s dad, ran Moor Farm for around 25 years and has had issues with dogs in the past, which is something she thinks could prove costly to her animals.

“My dad had problems with out of control dogs twice, which he said was twice too often,” Gemma said.

“The aftermath of a dog being out of control is horrific, heart-breaking, and costly for all concerned.

“Also, a dog not kept under control can be very damaging to wildlife, again especially at this time of year. If ground nesting birds are disturbed, the chicks will almost certainly die.

“Farmers will always be grateful for the support that they get from the public, and in return, farmers will do their utmost to continue to produce quality assured, home produced food at affordable prices.

“Together, we will get through this difficult time and beat this dreadful virus.”

Rob Wise, environment adviser at NFU East Anglia added: “We all recognise there are multiple health and wellness benefits to getting out and enjoying the countryside, but it’s absolutely vital we all heed guidance during these difficult times.

“The government has introduced new powers to reduce social gatherings and limit outdoor pursuits and these should be followed. Keeping to the rules will help protect all of us, including the farmers who are working so hard to produce our food, and their livestock.”

On Friday (March 27), the Government issued new advice to the public, which includes:

- Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible – do not travel unnecessarily

- You should only go outside alone or with members of your own household

- Keep at least 2 metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times

- Take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors. Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly

- Follow the Countryside Code. Leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home. Keep dogs under effective control and leave gates as you find them or follow instructions on signs

- Respect other people and protect the natural environment. Remember your actions can affect people’s lives and livelihoods