Time to go out to pasture, but are your animals secure?
As cattle and sheep begin to go out to pasture, are you confident your land borders are secure, and fencing stock-proof?
As animals go out to grass, farmers are being advised to ensure land security borders are adequate and stock-proof, with several recent incidences highlighting how farmers may be responsible, even if damage has been caused by external influences.
“We are certainly seeing increased numbers of disputes from seasonal grazing,” explains Matt McWhirter of insurance brokers Farmers & Mercantile.
“You may be running a closed herd to high-health status, and a neighbour’s farm is not. If there is the potential for transmission of disease such as BVD or sheep scab due to failed fences or insecure borders, it is difficult to pin-point culpability, but of course the damage is already done.”
It is not just the health issues to consider, an escaped animal can cause not only financial loss, but also potential for heavy personal injury claims should it cause a road traffic collision or harm to members of the public. Farmers could also be liable for damage done by the livestock to land and property of others.
As in the case of a fence being damaged by a rotten tree that has fallen from neighbouring land, it may not always be an act of negligence or damage caused by the farmer. However, culpability may ultimately land in the farmer’s corner, certainly during any dispute as fencing and borders will need securing.
Although the farmer’s public liability policy does mean he is covered in the event of his stock getting out and/or causing damage, it would be advisable to include a rural protect policy, according to Mr McWhirter.
“In the event of being in dispute with a neighbour, a rural protect policy will help to cover legal expenses and costs. Basic cover starts from around £200 to £300, and given the potential amount of time and the problems in such matters, it can be considered a wise investment.”
As well as the general health, welfare and security of cattle, it should also be noted of potential risks to the public, particularly in areas of public access. Claims have been made for injury caused by a fall from an improperly maintained stile, on a footpath crossing farm-land.