Open dialogue the key to managing stray sheep

New guidance will help Forest Enterprise Scotland (FES) staff work closely with farmers to manage stray sheep on the National Forest Estate.

A key element highlighted in the guidance is that incidents are normally resolved quickly when a continued, honest and open dialogue is entered into.

FES worked with Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to produce the guidance with industry bodies such as the NFUS, NSA and Sheep Scab Industry Group also being consulted.

Robin Waddell, Forest Enterprise Scotland’s Agriculture Advisor said:

“For the vast majority of cases we work very well with our neighbours and can resolve sheep trespass issues pretty quickly.

“This is how we would like to continue – keeping an open dialogue throughout and working together to get the animals back to their owners. Unfortunately it doesn’t always go that way and the guidance will help our staff manage the times when action is needed.

“Recent records show there to be a particular problem with stray sheep in the south of Scotland. We recorded around 190 separate incidences involving 1,500 animals in the Borders, Galloway and Dumfries areas. We have now introduced a consistent approach to recording incidents across the country so that we can get a better idea of impacts across Scotland.

“A particular worry is that unregulated movements sheep in our forests poses a biosecurity risk, specifically in terms of the scourge that is sheep scab and the transmission of tree diseases.

“Animal welfare is also a concern and this issue is often reported when we have had to deal with unmanaged sheep.

"Another direct impact on Forest Enterprise Scotland is the browsing that stray sheep can cause – this is a drain on our financial resources.  

“We have a duty to protect and manage designated areas of land so there is a real need to tackle these incidences as quickly as we can. The guidance aims to achieve a good result for all concerned.”

The guidance for FES staff highlights the current policy, legal position, roles and responsibilities and options for tackling unmanaged sheep on the National Forest Estate. 

Penny Johnston of NFUS added:

“The NFUS supports the production of this guidance. Feral or straying sheep can be a biosecurity risk and in some areas are responsible for the perpetuation of disease, such as sheep scab. 

“A lack of clarity over how to deal with feral or stray sheep creates barriers to the removal of these animals and clear protocols should make it possible to deal with these animals effectively and fairly.”

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said:

“Police Scotland recognise the work of Forestry Commission Scotland to bring better understanding to this complicated area and welcome their action to assist in discharging the duties under the relevant legislation, which will better protect Scottish farmers."

Notes to editors

  1. Forest Enterprise Scotland is an agency of Forestry Commission Scotland and manages the National Forest Estate on behalf of Scottish Ministers.
  2. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha e an urra ri riaghladh agus cumail maoineachadh is comhairle ri coilltearachd ann an Alba. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta.
  3. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6508 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.