The Countryside Code and the responsibility of livestock owners and walkers

With the increase in numbers of people enjoying the countryside it’s important that both livestock owners and walkers are aware of possible risks. Precautions can be taken to reduce the chances of a problem when encountering one another in the countryside.

The NFU provides the following advice for walkers and livestock owners –

Advice for walkers

When out walking in the countryside it is important to remember that it is a working environment where animals graze. Walkers should be mindful of their surroundings to fully enjoy the experience. Be vigilant, especially on entering a field or where you cannot see the whole field, and try to stay away from animals and to be aware of their movements. In the spring it’s especially important to be sympathetic to farm animals rearing their young and give them space.

Dos and Don’ts as advised by The Rambler Association:


  • Try to avoid getting between livestock and young.
  • Be prepared for livestock to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
  • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
  • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around livestock


  • Don’t hang onto your dog. If you are threatened by livestock – let it go as to allow the dog to run to safety.
  • Don’t put yourself at risk. Find another way round the livestock and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
  • Don’t panic or run. Most livestock will stop before they reach you. If they follow just walk on quietly.

Advice for livestock owners

Livestock owners also have a responsibility for the safety of the animals in their fields, and for those walking across their land. Owners who keep livestock in fields crossed by public rights of way may face civil and/or criminal proceedings if members of the public are injured by their livestock.

If you are aware that particular animals are likely to be upset by people walking in their field, or are likely to behave aggressively towards people, then you should consider whether they should be in a place with public access, or one where walkers are known to stray. Some livestock species and breeds of bull are prohibited from being in a field containing a right of way.

For further information:

The Countryside Code –

The Government Health and Safety Executive advice for livestock owners –