A FARMER has pleaded with visitors not to enter fields with sheep during lambing season.

Farmer Willie Weatherson, of Haltwhistle, is one of the many farmers asking tourists and visitors in Northumberland to be more vigilant when walking in fields where there are sheep and other livestock.

Like many farmers, Willie is very aware of how the area surrounding his fields are now becoming popular with tourists, especially during lockdown but wants to try and raise more awareness of why it is important to not enter field with animals in – especially when some fields have pregnant sheep or lambs in it.

He said : "It is not all of the public who visit the area enter fields with sheep or cows, but there are a few that do it and do not seem to care about the livestock in fields.

"Although we cannot stop people from walking in fields, we do ask and beg people to look at where they are before continuing to walk. There are other paths they can take that do not go through farm lands and we ask them to take those instead.

"Sheep scare naturally, they run away from people and even with dogs on leads walking in the fields .

"Lambing season is tough enough, so farmers do not need the extra pressure or stress of lambs being trampled on when sheep have been scared by people or dogs off lead. Additionally we do not need any traumatic births or complicated labours that will cost us our sheep.

"It is not a one-off occasion as it happens nearly every day but in April, it is important to make sure people do not walk in fields with the sheep.

"We also must warn the public that if a dog does attack a sheep – we can legally shoot it to protect our sheep. The sheep are our livelihood and we have to protect them and will not hesitate.

"The National Park have been amazing and have tried to make the public more aware of the issues they are causing by entering a field with livestock in it during this time of the year.

Speaking on behalf of the National Park, Margaret Anderson, senior ranger at Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “Early spring is an important time for farm animals and wildlife, especially when sheep are pregnant and ground nesting birds, including oystercatchers, lapwing, and the Park’s iconic curlew, might be nearby.

“Over recent years we have welcomed more and many new visitors to the National Park, and whilst we welcome this, it is always important to ask visitors to follow the countryside code and keep dogs on a lead, especially at this crucial time of year for livestock and wildlife.

“We ask that visitors stick to designated paths, close gates, and keep dogs on leads and take extra care near livestock, as dogs can easily scare or harm farm animals, so please keep a safe distance.”