DOG walkers could be threatening farmers’ livelihoods by letting their pets foul in East Lancashire fields.

Cattle aborting their young in farms in Rishton, Clayton-le-Moors and Gisburn have all been linked to neosporosis, a disease caused by a rapidly-spreading parasite.

The parasite’s eggs are produced by infected dogs and excreted in their faeces, with cattle becoming infected when they eat or drink contaminated water.

There is no cure, and no vaccine currently licensed for use in the UK.

County advisor for the National Farmers’ Union, Adam Briggs, said: “We get sporadic outbreaks and this is something we have raised in the past with MPs.

“There was a case in Gisburn, where a farmer lost a lot of cattle.

“We say, ‘if you pick it up in the streets, pick it up in a field’. We want to encourage people who go in the countryside to be aware of this.”

Angry dairy farmer, Paul Threlfall, 43, said people taking their pets onto Holt Farm, in Holt Street, Rishton, and Whinisles Farm in Clayton-le-Moors, could be responsible for the failure of some of his cattle to bear young.

He said: “Nationally, about four per cent of a herd will abort offspring throughout pregnancy, and four to six of the livestock will not go on to calf. It’s not a massive percentage but it is a problem.

“You spend years raising cattle, and then you realise it’s a non-breeder.

“Dog fouling is a problem anywhere, but this needs to be brought to the attention of dog walkers, and it might make them more responsible when they are walking through farm land. They just think it’s a big park.”

The Rishton councillor Harry Grayson added: “It’s not just dog fouling in the street that is causing harm. It’s a huge problem as far as farmers are concerned too.

“This parasite is harmful to cattle as well as children.

“People have a responsibility, and whilst dog owners are not all irresponsible, there an element of the dog walking fraternity who are irresponsible and do not pick their dogs’ fouling up.

“We have increase the fine in Hyndburn to £1,000, and people best watch out because we are looking for them.”