Lambs killed by rampaging dogs

Richard and Nicky Mitchell at Howlett Hall Farm where their sheep were attacked.'Picture Jane Coltman
Richard and Nicky Mitchell at Howlett Hall Farm where their sheep were attacked.'Picture Jane Coltman
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A farmer has spoken of his worst experience in 70 years after his lambs were savaged by dogs.

Seven lambs and a ewe have died after the attack at Howlett Hill Farm, near Bolam, at the weekend, and there are fears that many others could still succumb to the shock and injuries.

Heartbroken Nicky Mitchell, whose father farmed the land before him, said that never before has he seen such devastation.

“It is absolutely horrendous,” he said.

“In all the years I have lived here, this is the first time we have had lambs attacked. We have never had anything like this in 70 years.

“It has been terrible. I have never experienced it before and I don’t want to ever go through it again.”

A lamb with damaged ears at Howlett Hall Farm.'Picture Jane Coltman

A lamb with damaged ears at Howlett Hall Farm.'Picture Jane Coltman

All was well when Mr Mitchell checked the field of 52 ewes and 104 lambs on Friday evening, but as he approached early on Saturday he heard frantic bleating and then came across the carnage.

“As I got near the field I saw white things lying in the field and wondered what had gone on, and then I saw the red blood,” he said.

“Three lambs were lying dead and others were on their last legs. They had been run into the ground, they had been chased and chased and chased. At least 30 were bitten. They had their ears torn off and their back end, necks and legs bitten.

“We have lost seven up to now, but it could be more. It has knocked all the bounce out of them, they are just like zombies.”

I have never experienced it before and I don’t want to ever go through it again.

Nicky Mitchell, Farmer

His wife Kathleen added: “It was absolute devastation. Some of the lambs had their ears bitten and the blood was running down their faces into the fleece. They looked dreadful. I just felt sick.

“The sheep are totally traumatised by it. You usually see lambs gambling about, but they have never done that since. Even now, you can see that they are not as they should be for one-month-old lambs.”

The surviving sheep, a mix of cross-Suffolks and Texels, have been given penicillin to keep infection at bay, but the trauma could still have fatal consequences, and the dogs responsible for the attack have yet to be identified.

Mr Mitchell said: “My worry now is that the dogs could come back.

“It was definitely a dog attack. If it was a badger it would have just taken a lamb out altogether and it definitely wasn’t a fox.

“These were big, strong, month-old lambs. You get one or two dying when they’re young, but not at a month, you think you are over the worst then.

“It is very difficult to put a value on the loss because we don’t know how they will recover.”

Mrs Mitchell hopes the attack will raise awareness about the need to keep dogs away from sheep.

“People should know what can happen,” she said.

“We do get a lot of people walking near the farm. If anybody has dogs as soon as they see animals they usually put them on a lead. This is so important.

“Please keep your dogs under control.”

Police are carrying out inquiries to try to trace the dogs, which are believed to have been seen by a neighbour later on Saturday near to Angerton Station.

One was a silver grey lurcher-type, while the other was a short-haired black dog, bigger than a terrier, but smaller than a labrador.

The owner, anybody with information about the attack, or anyone who knows who the dogs’ owners are, should contact police on 101, ext 69191, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Dog owners are reminded to keep their pets under control at all times, particularly when near farmland.