The warning comes after a man was killed by cows in a field in Guestling earlier this month.
East Sussex County Council is reminding walkers, particularly those with dogs, that the normally docile animals can become aggressive, especially when calves are present.
“While serious incidents involving walkers and cattle are relatively rare, there have been several cases in the county in recent years and we are aware of incidents already this year,” said Cllr Nick Bennett, lead member for transport and environment.
“We would urge people to enjoy the countryside but take care around animals and keep as safe as possible by following the advice given by the NFU and The Ramblers. Also, be sure to carry a mobile phone to call for help if necessary.”
The National Farmers’ Union and The Ramblers say cows can feel threatened by dogs and are, therefore, more likely to attack. They have issued advice to walkers:
- Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves
- Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you
- Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd
- Keep your dog close, on a short lead, and under effective control
- Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock
- Don’t hang onto your dog if you are threatened by cattle – let it go as the cattle will chase the dog and not you
- Don’t put yourself at risk by walking close to cattle. Find another way round the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
- Don’t panic or run – most cattle will stop before they reach you; if they follow just walk on quietly
Diane Smith, East Sussex Footpath Secretary for The Ramblers, said: “Our beautiful East Sussex countryside is working farmland which helps form its character and make it such a pleasure to walk in, but with any working environment there are certain risks.
“We would urge everyone out walking to be aware of the dos and don’ts, especially at this time of year, but try not to let the very low risk of cattle attacks put you off enjoying the countryside when it is arguably at its loveliest.”
Tom Ormesher, Regional Environment & Land Use Adviser for the National Farmers Union, says it is important to anticipate contact with animals.
“The countryside is where farmers earn their living and produce food for us all, so there is no escaping the fact that cattle and sheep will be grazed there,” he said. “Indeed it is often these activities that make landscapes like the South Downs and the Sussex Weald so attractive.
“Farmers understand their duty of care and that the best way to prevent accidents is to identify and minimise risk. They are also encouraged to display signs explaining to walkers how to avoid cattle-related incidents and especially how to manage dogs in the presence of livestock.”