A WILTSHIRE farming family today pleaded with walkers not to interfere with electric fences, farm gates and warning signs designed to protect their herd of cattle and the public.

The Leonard family have been tenant farmers in Netherstreet Farm at Bromham and at Roundway Down near Devizes since the 1890s.

The farm specialises in dairy, poultry and now high-quality beef raised predominantly on grass and home-grown hay.

It includes a herd of 77 Galloways introduced by Jeremy Leonard, 76, and his daughter, Gretchen, 50, to participate in the Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

Gretchen said: “We work hard to raise high-quality beef cattle on the land we rent.

“We use electric fences as the Galloway coat is extremely thick. They are bred to withstand extreme cold, this means they can walk straight through barbed wire and so only electric fences will keep them and the public safe.

“Over the past few months, we have experienced a range of anti-social problems; electric fences have been turned off, farm gates have been left open or shut when there have been clear signs about how the gates should be left.

“We have had numerous signs removed that say ‘Bull in Field’. As soon as a new sign is put up it has been removed again – sometimes in hours.

“We just don’t understand why. Signs are there for a reason. We put them up to protect the public and to safeguard the welfare of our livestock.

“If an electric fence is turned off, cut or taken down the cattle will push through and start grazing in the wrong field or worse still hurt somebody.

"They may even escape the relative safety of the farm.

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“I am asking the public to respect signs and not interfere with the electric fences or gates.

“Many of our animals are named having been bred and born on the farm and with mums and babies currently up grazing with Jack the bull, it is even more important that walkers stick to public footpaths where they exist and respect the open access areas.

“We have all the details here and keep a copy in our Quadbike so people are always welcome to ask us if they have any questions about where they should or shouldn't be.

“Dog walkers should also keep their dogs on a lead and clear up any faeces after their dogs as it can harm both the grass and livestock by causing cattle to abort an unborn calf.

"It is our livelihood that you are damaging.”