New Forest cattle to be dehorned — and walkers who have ‘lost any respect’ for nature are blamed

The New Forest Commoners Defence Association has asked cattle owners remove the horns of their stock after a rise in attacks on dog walkers.

The organisation has been forced to take action after a series of incidents and has written to the 200 people who are registered to turn cattle out to graze the forest, asking them to dehorn their stock.

Breeds which have characteristically large horns — such as English longhorns and Highlands — will be safe from the measure, but others types, such as dexters, Charolais and Devon may be subject to the dehorning.

Tony Hockley, chair of the CDA, said it was because people have ‘lost any respect’ for the dangers of livestock, and criticised dog walkers who do not keep their pets under control around the cattle.

‘Over the years, dangerous incidents involving livestock have been extremely rare. Yet in the past two years, there have been several,’ he said.

‘Poor behaviour by a few makes potential victims of the many. One badly controlled dog can make an animal defensive to other dogs, however well controlled.’

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Although dehorning makes the animal safer, the process is controversial due to the pain it causes the animals.

However, scientists at the University of California may have found a potential solution for future cattle, since they have successfully bred hornless bulls.

The researchers spliced the ‘hornless’ gene from Aberdeen Angus cattle into Holstein dairy cows, and two years on from the first genetically engineered calves, they confirmed that their offspring also do not have horns.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, Helen Ferrier, said the NFU saw technological developments such as genome editing as positive for our industry, given the opportunities they present for genetic improvements that can benefit animal welfare, farm performance, society, and environment.

‘Techniques such as genome editing are an extension of the genetic improvement through breeding that farmers have done since the birth of modern agriculture,’ she said.

Ramblers’ policy and advocacy officer, Alison Hallas, added that it was important to be aware when walking where cattle graze, whether or not they have horns.

‘It’s sensible to always take a few simple precautions around cattle to continue enjoying the countryside safely,’ she told Country Life. ‘When entering fields, check for any animals and be mindful of how they are behaving, don’t walk too close to cattle to avoid putting yourself at risk and keep your dog close, on a short lead and under effective control.’