TWO Lisbellaw sheep farmers are counting the cost following two separate attacks by dogs that resulted in the deaths of 6 ewes and 14 lambs, and severe trauma to those animals that survived.
Darren Hunter, who farms at Lisreagh, lost 2 ewes and 10 lambs. He estimated he is £1,500 out of pocket. The alarm was raised by a neighbour who heard dogs barking at 12.30 on Friday morning last.
Mr Hunter described the attack on some of his 120-strong flock as, ‘brutal’.
“They were kept in two separate fields on each side of a lane.
“They put a ewe through four different sets of barbed wire. She’s still alive, but not in great shape. She had twin lambs and they were both killed.”
On Friday morning, when the carcasses were put on display, one had its head bitten off completely, and another had its leg torn off.
Mr Hunter has been farming on the same farm for the last 10 years. It was his first dog attack, and likewise for his neighbour, William Potters.
He lost 4 ewes and 4 lambs in the early hours of Sunday, 24th March.
Darren believes the same pair of dogs, an Alsatian and a white ‘thinnish’ dog of an unknown breed, were involved each time.
“We followed dog tracks from his farm to ours. William had 7 dead at the time and then another lamb died the other day.
“When the alarm was raised in our own case, neighbours and ourselves went down to look. We didn’t see the dogs at that stage, but we looked around for a few more hours and we saw them in a neighbour’s field, heading for home.
“We didn’t follow them. My brother-in-law fired at them, but they were too far away. They went off in completely opposite directions.”
Darren explained that Mr Potters lambs were much older than his were: “Mine were from 4 days old to 5 weeks.
“The ones that were killed were in a batch of 10 ewes and 16 lambs, and the ones that survived are just spooked out.
“When you go near them, they go up the walls, they’re that scared, even of me.”
And, both Mr Hunter and Mr Potters, and their families, are traumatised by what has happened.
“We have been up every night”, Darren explained. “We have had no sleep since this happened. For example, we were out this (Easter Sunday) morning till 6.50, out checking the sheep with a big torch.”
Some of the ewes from his 120-strong flock he has brought indoors, but he explained that sheep prefer to be outside (’they’re getting extra nuts just to keep them built up’).
On average, he estimated he has lost £160 per animal, or £1,500-plus in total.
And, with his lambs earmarked as Spring lambs, he said they would have been ready for sale in 3 weeks’ time, at £110 each. So, potentially, he has lost more.
“People with dogs just need to be aware of the havoc they can cause, They go away and leave the dogs outside, with no control over them. People don’t care, but they might if they were shot sheep worrying.
“We can shoot them on sight. We have a right to do that, and it will be done, and William (Potters) is taking the same attitude. He’s fed up like myself.
“You keep them all year for the Spring lamb trade, and these boys (dogs) just come and wreck the whole thing.”
In the first instance, Fermanagh District Council’s Dog Warden is involved in follow-up investigations after a sheep kill/dog attack.
He visited the Hunter farm on Friday and, according to Darren, he was told where he believed the two dogs that killed his sheep and lambs are kept.
But, with the Bank Holiday, council officers were not available again until this morning, Wednesday, something that Darren Hunter feels is wrong.
“I believe that there’s 24/7 dog warden coverage needed. Lambing time is stressful enough, without this carry-on. The dog warden knows where the dogs are as we told him, but the police can’t do anything till he makes a report, and he’s not due back till Wednesday.”
The Herald did contact the Townhall on Friday, the day of the sheep kill. An officer there confirmed that the kill was being investigated by the dog warden.
He added that if we needed any more information, the head of the department would be back at his desk this morning, Wednesday.
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