AS farmers count the cost of dog attacks on their sheep, a Somerset farmer tells how he lost five ewes, while two others miscarried their lambs.

Tom Newth, from Castle Cary works full time on a dairy farm near Glastonbury and also runs his own Prestleigh Flock of 40 pedigree Charollais sheep.

The animals were being kept on rented fields in West Compton, 15 minutes’ drive from his home.

Tom, who was born and raised on his family’s farm, said: "The sheep were heavily in lamb in October and were on some rented ground.

“How the dog got into the field in the first place is a bit of a mystery.

"He was quite a big dog. I knew which one it was because it’s quite a small community round there.

“I had an electric fence around the field and the dog must have found a way through in to where the ewes were pregnant with twins.

“He chased a few around and they ran into a brambly area at the far end of the field.

"They congested there and went piling into the brambles. Two or three got held up in the brambles and couldn't get away so had no way of escaping the dog."

Tom, whose friend saw what was happening and intervened, added: "Two ewes died from what happened that day and within days another three had died.

"Two more then miscarried their lambs through stress.

“To lose so many from a small flock has a big impact on the animals, to you personally as a farmer and being pedigree they are more valuable. It was quite a blow all the way round.”

There is no public footpath in or around the fields so there was no reason for a dog to be there.

NFU Mutual estimates farm animals worth £228,000 were injured or killed by dogs in the South West last year.

Rebecca Davidson, the insurer's rural affairs specialist, said: “These horrific attacks are causing unbearable suffering to farm animals and anxiety for farmers as they deal with the aftermath.

“There’s a new generation of dog owners whose pandemic puppies are coming of age and they don’t know how their dog is going to behave around livestock.

“It’s hard for people to imagine their affectionate, family pet could injure or kill another animal and it’s not only physical attacks that can harm livestock.

"Even if a small dog chases sheep and they don’t make contact, they can separate lambs from their mothers or the distress and exhaustion from the chase can cause a pregnant ewe to die or miscarry.”