As people head out to enjoy the countryside over Easter, NFU Scotland is asking everyone to beware of the potential dangers posed by cattle in fields where they are taking access, particularly where they are accompanied by dogs.

Easter marks one of the most important and busy periods for livestock farmers as lambing and calving are now underway.  NFU Scotland is asking people to be mindful of livestock, and of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code which stipulates that access with dogs should not occur in fields where there are young lambs or calves.

Cattle, particularly those with calves, can become aggressive if they feel threatened, especially where a dog is present, so members of the public are advised to keep out of fields with cattle where possible at this time of year, and find an alternative route.

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie commented: “Spring is a beautiful time in the countryside and we welcome responsible walkers and other recreational users who want to get out and enjoy Scotland’s outdoors. However, everyone should also be aware that it’s a very busy time for farmers and a critical time for new-born animals.

“The sight of young lambs or calves in spring is a joy shared by everyone visiting or living in the countryside, but to protect these animals, and ensure public safety, it is essential that people follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.  In particular, dogs should always be kept well away from sheep and cattle because even if no lambs or calves are visible, they could be present but well hidden by the herd or flock.  Cattle in particular, can react aggressively, and their natural instinct to protect their young is strong at this time of year.” Ends


  • Lambs are particularly vulnerable, both before and after they are born.  Pregnant ewes sometimes miscarry if they are put under stress or take fright before their lambs are born.  New lambs can very easily be separated from their mothers if the flock is disturbed, and this can result in the lambs getting lost and dying of starvation or exposure. Sheep are rather nervous creatures at the best of times, and even very well-behaved dogs on leads can be very disturbing to ewes at this time of year.  In view of this, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code advises people to avoid walking, riding or cycling through fields with lambs and calves, if possible, and never to take a dog into a field with young animals.
  • Cattle are inquisitive by nature, and they can react aggressively if they feel threatened, in particular where they have young to protect or where a dog is present.
  • The Scottish Outdoor Access Code gives detailed information on responsible access for recreational users and land managers, as a requirement of the access legislation under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.  For more information, see outdooraccess-scotland.com

Guidance in the Code includes the following advice:

  • Fields with young animals present: You can avoid disturbing sheep close to lambing time, or young animals such as calves, lambs, foals and farmed deer, by going into a neighbouring field or onto adjacent land.  If this is not possible, keep as far from the animals as possible.  Do not take dogs into fields where there are young animals present.
  • Fields with farm animals: Access rights extend to such fields, but as per the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, access takers should not go into fields where there are young lambs or calves present.  Where they are not present, but there is other livestock, access takers should keep as far away from them as possible, and ensure that dogs are under close control at all times.

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