Dog Poo and Farm Livestock


Risk of the spread of disease in livestock from dog faeces

The purpose of this note is to provide information and advice about the risk of the transmission of diseases in livestock from contaminated dog faeces.

Disease in livestock

There is growing evidence of the links between two specific diseases in livestock and the presence on grazing land of faeces from infected dogs. The two diseases are:

  • Neosporosis – which can cause abortions in cattle
  • Sarcocystosis – which can cause neurological disease and death in sheep

Neosporosis –

Neosporosis is caused by the parasite Neospora caninum and the disease is now thought to be responsible for the highest percentage of all cattle abortions reported in the UK. Once neosporosis infection has occurred in a cattle herd it can persist within the herd due to the vertical transmission of the parasite between cows and calves. The Moredun Research Institute (for Animal Health) near Edinburgh is carrying out research into the disease at present. Although this work is ongoing, the Moredun has published information on the disease and the main points to note are:

  • Neospora eggs are produced by infected dogs* and excreted in their faeces.
  • Cattle will become infected if they eat food or drink water contaminated with Neospora eggs.
  • Infection in cattle is common and frequently there are no obvious ill effects for cow or calf.
  • The disease manifests when Neospora multiplies in the cells of the developing calf and its placenta and causes sufficient damage to trigger abortion or stillbirth.
  • Control of Neospora abortion is difficult but certain management practices can be applied to reduce the risks.
  • There are no drugs currently available to control this disease in cattle or to cure infected animals.
  • No vaccine is currently licensed in the UK to prevent neosporosis in cattle.
  • Current knowledge suggests that Neospora does not cause disease in human beings.


* Moredun advise that dogs are the definitive host of the parasite and that they have not founda link between transmission of Neospora eggs and other carnivores such as wild foxes.

The vertical transmission of neosporosis is a major cause of persistent infection within a herd, however spread of the disease between unrelated females only occurs where a dog acts as host to the parasite – such point sources of transmission can cause ‘abortion storms’ within a herd. The parasite can be picked up by dogs through the ingestion of contaminated livestock material, such as placentas from newly calved cows, or by being fed contaminated raw meat. This does not rule out other possible transmission routes, but there is no definitive information on other transmission routes at the current time. Faeces from infected dogs can contaminate pasture and potentially cattle feed, water or bedding.

Evidence suggests that only a small number of infected dogs develop symptoms of the disease, which include progressive lameness and paralysis in pups less than 6 months of age. Infected bitches can pass the parasite to their puppies during pregnancy by trans-placental infection. If dogs do develop symptoms, most of these cases are fatal or require euthanasia.

The prevalence of the disease in herds, and its potential impact on farm economics – due to infected cows being more likely to abort, premature culling and reduced milk yields – make this an important disease to try to control. As there is no way to effectively prevent (through vaccination) or to treat neosporosis, a farmer’s main line of defence against the disease is to take reasonable and proportionate actions to manage the likelihood of Neospora contamination.


Sarcocystosis is also caused by parasites, Sarcocystis spp, which use a number of intermediate hosts, including dogs. The main points to note are:

  • Sarcocystis eggs are produced by infected carnivores and excreted in their faeces.
  • Sheep will become infected if they eat food or drink water contaminated with Sarcocystis eggs.

In many cases, infected livestock show no symptoms, but the disease is more likely to manifest if there is a high level of infection in the environment which could occur in a field used heavily for dog walking. Even when symptoms have not been present, the presence of sarcocysts on a carcass following slaughter can result in the carcass being condemned. The disease can be passed on from ewe to lamb during pregnancy, but vertical transmission is not believed to be an important method of spread for sarcocystosis.

Dogs can pick up the parasite through the ingestion of contaminated material from carcasses, or by being fed contaminated raw sheep meat. Faeces from infected dogs can contaminate pasture and animal feed, water or bedding. In contrast to neosporosis, there is no transmission of the Sarcocystis parasite between bitch and puppy.

The scientific evidence demonstrating the link between infected dogs and sarcocystosis in sheep is compelling, but the disease is generally regarded as less of a problem than neosporosis.

There is no vaccine against sarcocystosis in sheep and although theoretically there are some possible treatments available, the high cost and practicality of administration of these prevents their application. As with neosporosis, the most feasible option for the farmer is to introduce reasonable and proportionate management practices to reduce infection risks.

Control of transmission by dogs.

Transmission of the diseases by dogs involves two stages – dogs eating material which contains the parasites and subsequent ingestion of the dog’s faeces by livestock. The following issues are relevant in trying to minimise the risk of contaminated dog faeces transmitting these diseases to livestock. For Access Officers, the issue of most relevance, in terms of the potential to play a helpful role, relates to dog fouling – see the 3rd point:

  • Carcass management – both diseases can be picked up by dogs which eat infected placenta/ foetal material, or raw meat from infected stock. To minimise the risk of picking up the parasites, dogs, including farm dogs, should not be allowed to eat material from fallen stock, or other material such as placentas or foetal material. Prompt disposal of carcasses and any other potentially contaminated material will help to limit the spread of disease.
  • Working dogs – there is a need to raise awareness of the potential risk of infection of working dogs from eating uncooked meat. Animal Health is responsible for issuing approvals to allow raw meat not certified for human consumption to be fed to animals (approvals are required for working dogs, not pet dogs) and can include hunt kennels, racing greyhounds etc. as well as farm dogs. Farm dogs should, as far as possible, not be allowed to defecate in grazing fields, or in buildings which are used to store animal feed or bedding, or to house animals.
  • Domestic / pet dogs – the Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003 makes it an offence to not pick up your dog’s faeces, and applies to all public places (but specifically exempts agricultural land, including grazing land *). Public places include public parks, mainly with the intention of reducing the risk of transmission of the disease toxocariasis to children. This offence applies to everyone in charge of a dog, including commercial dog walkers. Awareness should be raised of the potential risk of passing on infection to livestock, and all dog walkers should be encouraged to pick up their dogs’ waste, even if they are on agricultural land.
  • Raw meat – if raw meat is the preferred choice for feeding dogs, dog owners should be encouraged to seek advice on how to kill parasites before meat is eaten, for example freezing the meat for a period of days before feeding it.


Vets and other organisations which provide advice to dog owners can help advise on precautions to take if feeding dogs raw meat, and the NFUS and SRPBA have roles in disseminating advice relating to carcass management and working dogs. In terms of encouraging farmers and land managers to play their part in controlling the risk of transmission by dogs, the key messages are set out below.

Key messages for farmers / land managers:

  • You should remove any raw livestock matter on farms promptly – such as an aborted foetus, the placenta of a newly born calf / lamb, or fallen stock – to make sure that dogs can’t get access to it or eat it.
  • You should make sure your own dogs do not defecate where livestock graze, where animal feed or bedding is stored, or where stock is housed undercover.
  • Feedstuffs, hay, bedding and water should be kept free of faecal contamination by dogs and other carnivores, as well as vermin.

It is worth noting that, whilst the two issues highlighted in this briefing are of particular concern due to the lack of effective forms of treatment and the economic impact they can have on farming, other problems affecting livestock, including horses and pigs, can occur from grazing land contaminated by infected dog faeces. For animal health reasons, and for the benefit of other people enjoying the outdoors, it is helpful to encourage good practice by the public to always pick up after their dog.

 Key messages for dog walkers using local ‘hot spots’

Parasites can be transmitted to livestock through infected dog waste being left on grazing land. Some of these parasites cause diseases in livestock which can result in death of sheep, and abortion in cattle.

Dog walkers and owners can take some simple steps to help minimise the risk of spreading these diseases:

  • Always remove dog waste from all locations, including grazing land. If your dog is carrying the parasites, it will pass the eggs in its poo. By safely disposing of dog waste, you will help minimise the risk of passing on disease to livestock.
  • Don’t let your dog eat remains of dead animals or leftover birth materials such as placentas whilst out walking. Your dog may be infected by parasites if you allow it to eat animal material it may find whilst out on a walk. Often the parasites cause no symptoms in dogs, but sometimes the disease of neosporosis can seriously affect your dog’s health and possibly result in death.
  • If you choose to feed your dog raw meat, make sure that it is parasite-free. Your dog can pick up parasites from eating uncooked meat. You won’t be able to tell if raw meat contains parasites just by looking at it, but your local vet will be able to give you advice on how to make sure raw meat is safe for your dog.


UK Among Worst in EU Wildlife League.

UK Among Worst in Wildlife League.

By Roger Harrabin, BBC Environment Analyst.

May 20 2015.

The UK is among the worst countries in the EU for protecting its wildlife habitats, says an official report.  Britain, Belgium and Denmark report around 70% of habitats are in unfavourable or bad condition.  Holland registered just 4% of its habitats in good condition; environmentalists say the figures are unacceptable.

The report by the European Environment Agency and the European Commission is based on data from member states.  It says EU laws designed to protect wildlife and habitats appear to be working – but only in a patchy way.  The document, State of Nature 2015, comes after the European President Jean-Claude Juncker has launched a review into the fitness of the wildlife and birds directives.

Business groups have warned that “green tape” is hindering Europe’s attempt to boost the economy and create jobs. Mr Juncker says he wants better regulations – but wildlife groups fear that means looser regulation.

Today’s report shows only a minority of species in favourable conservation status in most member states.

Erosion of diversity.

Habitats are in a worse condition than specific species. The report says agriculture is the biggest threat to biodiversity, with grasslands suffering worst of all as farming continues to intensify. The draining of wetlands is a continuing problem, too.

Over-fishing is damaging Europe’s seas, and the marine environment has a particular concentration of threatened species. Changes to rivers are threatening fresh water habitats and species.

The report contains positive elements. It notes that the EU’s Natura 2000 wildlife sites seem to be protecting all species which live in them.

Many of the most heavily-protected birds on Annex 1 of the Birds Directive are recovering, though not yet secure from the threat of extinction. Wintering birds – mostly waterbirds – are on the increase. But many of the species on Annex II (which may be hunted) are decreasing.

The areas with the best quality habitats are the Alps and the Black Sea. The Atlantic has the worst quality habitats. Italy has the highest percentage of habitats which are already unfavourable but getting worse (40%).

In most countries, between 3% and 20% of unfavourable species assessments are improving – but the UK, Denmark, Poland, Belgium and Holland are striving to catch up, with more than 20% improving.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA executive director, said: The results are mixed but clear. When implemented well, conservation measures work and improve the status of habitats and species. Such improvements remain limited and patchy. Europe’s diversity is still being eroded overall – and the pressures continue.”

Farmer Turns Down £275m Housing Deal to Protect Countryside

Planning system under fire after [Sussex] farmer turns down £275m housing deal to protect countryside

Dated 12 May 2015 by Olivia Midgley.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said farmers and landowners across the country were rejecting developers’ plans – and substantial amounts of cash – in order to protect the countryside

West Sussex farmer Robert Worsley rebuffed the offer by Mayfield Market Towns, who have proposed to build 10,000 homes, along with an academy, primary schools and shops across 485 hectares (1,200 acres).

Mr Worsley, who farms the 222 ha (550 ac) site in Twineham, near the South Downs and his neighbours, who have refused similar offers, have become the latest community to fight back against countryside housing plans.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said more and more farmers and landowners across the country were rejecting developers’ plans – and substantial amounts of cash – in order to protect the countryside for future generations.  CPRE senior rural affairs campaigner Graeme Willis, said Mr Worsley should be commended for placing these considerations above financial incentives.

“It is invidious that so many landowners are put in this position by highly speculative land acquisition – especially where there is huge community opposition and no planning permission,” said Mr Willis, adding the case illustrated ‘the failures of our planning system in encouraging aggressive, speculative development’.

“The current developer-led planning system has significantly increased the regularity and pressure of speculative development – which is both divisive and distressing for communities. In its place, we need a plan-led system where the focus is on land that people want to see developed – like the brownfield sites around the country that can provide the space for one million new homes.”

CLA director of external affairs Shane Brennan echoed the comments, but said it was up to landowners to choose what to do with their land.  He added: “Development should be plan-led, balancing the needs of rural communities and making sure that the development that is needed goes in the right places.”

Arable farmer Robert Worsley, who bought the farm 15 years ago and grows wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape, linseed and peas said his case highlighted the ‘hypocrisy’ in Britain’s planning system.

“The government tells us we have got localism, which means we have a say in planning issues. But in reality planning policy is dictated from on high, giving rise to the wealthy building lobby to come and drive a coach and horses through our land. And it is not local communities which benefit from these developments – it is the landowner and the developer,” he said.

“It is an easy source of economic activity and growth to sacrifice land in the South East and get cash to bolster the economy. It is like or worse than selling off the gold reserves during the Labour government. It could cause irreversible damage because once the land has gone, it has gone.”

Mr Worsley, whose land is one third permanent grassland under Entry Level Stewardship, said ‘urban sprawl’ was already affecting the South East and the area’s infrastructure was ‘saturated’.  There is a difference between the words ‘need’ and ‘demand’ when you are talking about housing,” he added.

“The answer is to regenerate areas in the North Midlands and the North East where they are crying out for developers’ money to rebuild communities where industries have been superseded.”

British Wildlife Abstracts

Items from the April edition of  British Wildlife magazine.

SOMERSET LEVELS.  £750K awarded from the Postcode Lottery to a project aiming to reduce runoff from farmland in the upper catchment of rivers which drain in to the Somerset Levels.  It will takeover from where the Parrett Catchment Project left off after EU funding ran out in 2007.  Will this have any lasting success?  More maize cultivation and larger machinery being used on poor ground conditions.

After the 2013-14 flooding on the Levels, a recent report states that the effects on wildlife were not as great as expected.  The more established grasslands recovered well, unlike more recently created grasslands which in some cases were completely destroyed.

DREDGING.  a number of NGO’s are concerned that new rules being considered by the Coalition which will relax the conditions on the dredging of watercourses by landowners, will undo attempts put in place to improve the water environment.

MY WILD LIFE.  My Wild Life is a new Wildlife Trusts’ campaign project aiming to celebrate the importance of nature to people.  Website –  or   on social media  #MyWildLife

ASH DIEBACK.  Ash dieback is spreading with the disease now found at almost 1,000 sites across the UK.  See map at   East Anglia and south-east England remain the hotspots with also a hotspot in north-west England.  [Shows that Kent and north-east Sussex are quite badly affected].



BTO Launches Appeal to Help Farmland Birds

BTO launches appeal to help farmland birds.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has launched a new appeal to help tackle the continuing decline of many once familiar farmland birds.  Despite conservation efforts farmland populations have still not recovered to former levels and some are still actually declining.

BTO research has been central to the whole ‘farmland bird story’, from identifying declines, through diagnosing causes, to designing solutions for this conservation problem.

The chief government policy response has been to instigate agri-environment schemes. These schemes, which are funded through the EU Common Agricultural Policy, were set up to support farmers and land managers to farm in ways that promote biodiversity, protect soil and water and enhance the landscape.

Some of the scheme options were wholly or partly designed to provide resources for declining farmland birds.  Previous BTO research has highlighted limitations to some of the schemes, prompting modifications to improve their design.  Although agri-environment schemes have succeeded in reducing the rates of decline of a range of farmland bird species, we have yet to see populations recover to former levels and, for some species, the rate of decline has increased over recent years.

Dr Gavin Siriwardena, Principal Ecologist at BTO, comments, “Many of us thought we had solved the problem of farmland bird decline, but the latest evidence suggests more research is needed to find conservation solutions that really work.

“It is evident from our latest results that there is still much that we do not understand about how to reverse the declines, making our Farmland Bird Appeal all the more important.  If we can secure the funding then we can address some key questions and offer the best advice for  farmers to deliver biodiversity benefits.”

More than 60% of land in the UK is agricultural, so in many ways farmland is the British countryside. The BTO maintains that if we want to maintain our farmland bird communities, a central part of this countryside, then we need to understand how to make effective conservation efforts to deliver more favourable outcomes.

Gavin Siriwardena says, “Many farmers invest a lot of time and effort into protecting wildlife on their farms; we need to ensure that the available agri-environment scheme options work for birds and are also practical for the farmers who will implement them.”

Soil Is Amazing Stuff – If We Allow It To Be!

[Found this intriguing reminder (containing some mind-blowing facts), of what mainly keeps us lot alive and we’re often walking on…],3ADFG,724ZFX,BRNXW,1

Soil is amazing stuff – if we allow it to be!

A really top quality arable soil is made up of, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, 25% air, 25% water, 45% minerals and around 5% organic matter, with the organic content potentially rising to around 10% when under permanent grassland and therefore not cultivated.

One single teaspoon full of healthy soil contains around 1 billion bacteria, meaning that a handful of soil has more living organisms within it than there are people living on planet Earth!

One of the primary purposes of soil bacteria lies in its role in decomposition, which is a vital process within the ecosystem, because nutrients trapped in plant or animal tissue are broken down and made available to other organisms. This process ensures the recycling of materials within the soil and for instance, plays an integral role in the nitrogen cycle. Organisms are unable to use nitrogen in its gaseous form, however bacteria in the soil will fix nitrogen from the air so that plants can use it.

Earthworms also play an important role by eating organic matter and breaking it down into smaller pieces allowing bacteria and also fungi to feed on it and release the nutrients. Charles Darwin referred to earthworms as ‘nature’s ploughs’ because of this mixing of soil and organic matter.

Talking of fungi, it is thought that over 30% of the sugars produced by the plant are released through the root system to feed the soil biology and maintain the ecosystem around the plant. The release of sugars forms the basis of a symbiotic relationship, as these sugars in the soil enable the microbial populations to multiply around the plant roots.

A fairly recent discovery is that Mycorrhizal fungi also produce a sticky substance known as glomalin, which has been referred to as “soil glue”. Combined with the fungal ropes, which are the strands produced by the fungi to absorb nutrients, this glue is responsible for building soil structure effectively binding minute soil particles together to create soil crumbs, which helps to prevent soil from slumping and eroding.

Now for a truly staggering statistic. The main body of most fungi is made up of fine, branching, and mainly colourless threads called hyphae. Each fungus will have vast numbers of these hyphae, all intertwining to make up a tangled web called the mycelium. In arable soils you might expect to find between 1 & 2 metres of these fungal threads in every gram of soil, which rises to a 100 metres or so in soils under permanent grassland. But wait for it, if you think that is amazing – the fungal threads in an ounce of soil taken from the forest floor can be as long as 40 miles in length!!

There is increasing evidence that the poor condition of many soils, which lack a thriving “biology” are contributing to a build-up of locked nutrients, with only 5-10% of all inputs ever reaching the plants they were intended to support. Add to this the removal of many crop protection inputs, and world phosphorus reserves coming under strain in the coming decades, those with an eye on the strategic nature of farming are once again looking at how to harness soil biology to unlock bound macro elements, increase nutrient availability and thus reduce artificial inputs on a commercial scale.

However, we must also make sure that our soils remain where they should be – in the field.

Government research is showing that through soil erosion we are losing 0.1 – 0.3t/ha of top soil annually and it is the most fertile soil which is lost first. This equates to an annual loss in the UK of 2.2 million tonnes of soil through erosion (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology). Oh, and by the way, it takes approximately 500 years to replace 1 inch of topsoil lost to erosion.

So, as the UN General Assembly has declared 2015 as the “International year of soils”, perhaps now is the time to start looking after our soils much better than we are currently, and indeed many farmers are now focussing on just this matter with some urgency.

I think that it might help if we can all begin to think of soil as a living and breathing organism – a habitat that is as packed with biodiversity as any top notch, designated nature reserve. Then we might tend it with more care.

Week Ending Saturday, May 2nd

Monday, April 27th.  We moved three ponies from the Trust’s hold-back land over to a small nature reserve at Chailey today.  One of the two remaining spare ponies is causing us concern because it’s been losing weight and though it has now been on good grazing for over a month, it has shown little improvement.  Therefore we called one of our vets in to examine it, she took away a number of blood samples for analysis to hopefully pin down the problem.

Tuesday, April 28th.  A friend (Jim B) e-mailed me: “I went for a walk on Windover Hill today, nice in the sun but that wind had a bit of a bite to it.  I was looking for flowers, really, cowslips and Early Purples….lots of cowslips but still quite small….but the highlight turned out to be a pair of Red Kites performing acrobatics below me and quite close – just over the fence line at the head of Long Man….stunning….I must have watched them for a good half hour all told.”

Thursday, April 30th.  As a favour, in the morning took a party of 89 9-year olds from Hailsham for a guided walk on the 7 Sisters Country Park.  Beautiful sunny morning but there was a keen wind which made it a little tricky in talking to such a large group but I think they enjoyed it and hopefully learnt something.  They were hoping to see some spring flowers…

The Country Park is nowadays looking somewhat run-down – fences, gates, signage.  Much of the principle wildlife habitat – grassland, is either over-grazed or conversely, under-grazed.  This area used to be a mecca for a myriad of wild flowers, butterflies and birds; sadly, not at the moment.  This unfortunate situation has arisen due to several reasons: poor management over the past 15 years or so; a lack of funding and staffing.  Most of all, as regards its all-important grazing, the tenant of the past 26 years appears to have little or no regard to wildlife conservation, the principle reason he was chosen and brought in.  It’s high-time he was replaced.

I’ll finish off on this subject with a radical suggestion.  I suggest that the Park’s owner East Sussex CC, sells the Country Park to the National Trust, which now has a sizeable land holding operation in the area and has the necessary expertise to manage the Park correctly.  The ESCC would then have off-loaded for them, a liability, one they no longer have the expertise to manage and crucially, it would raise for the cash-strapped County Council, a considerable amount of much-needed capital.