Dog owners are being urged to clean up after their dogs when they go walking in the countryside
The Country Land and Business Association's South West director, John Mortimer, has warned of the potential threat to pregnant cows from a parasite which can be picked up in grass contaminated by faeces.
There is no known treatment for the effects of the parasite, Neospora caninum, which can cause cattle to abort. The parasite lives in both dogs and cattle, but only reproduces in dogs – although there may be no obvious symptoms the dog is infected. It can be transmitted to cattle which graze on grass contaminated by dog faeces. Once inside a cow the parasite can cause abortion or the birth of premature, impaired or infected calves.
"We welcome visitors to the countryside, but our request to visitors is to remember it is also a place of work and anyone who brings their dog should pick up and remove their pet's mess. Even if there aren't any animals visibly grazing in a field, there may be in future – or the grass might be cut and used as feed. Commonsense will usually alert owners to possible risks from cows with calves at foot but equally serious, silent and unseen risks to livestock such as this parasite are largely unknown."