Spring is here and, with the clocks having gone forward and the prospect of lockdown easing, we are now looking forward to summer, writes The Advertiser’s monthly farming columnist Kevin Prince.

Across the farming community it’s a time to celebrate new growth and that’s true for both the arable and livestock communities.

In this area fields are growing greener as leaves develop on the autumn- and spring-sown crops.

Farmers are walking their land, keenly observing not only the rate of growth in the plants themselves but also that of developing pests and wondering whether or not it’s time to treat the fields or leave them a little longer, perhaps with a fertiliser application to help them establish and become more resistant.

On livestock farms, new life is evident in the growing size of their herds.

Cattle and sheep are the animals most members of the public will see, with many pig units being either totally indoors or in fields where there’s no public access for reasons of biosecurity.

Many cows and ewes are being turned out to take advantage of new grass and warmer weather. Gambolling lambs and calves have passers-by watching for hours, and that’s fine.

But mixing among the livestock can present issues.

Every year there are reports of people being chased by cattle, some with tragic outcomes.

Everyone imagines cows as docile creatures and generally they are.

But every farmer will tell you they become literally a different beast with a calf at foot and at close quarters with humans.

Walkers believe that if only cows and calves are in the field they want to cross then they have nothing to worry about. But a degree of circumspection is advised, particularly when walkers have a dog or dogs with them.

Dogs are natural predators of livestock and while some owners prefer to forget this, animals never do; that’s the whole basis of being able to herd animals with dogs.

Dogs should always be on leads where livestock is present, whether that’s in closed fields or more open areas where people imagine it’s OK to let dogs run, chase, and generally be dogs.

But one dog’s fun can soon turn into a sheep’s nightmare and it’s the same with cattle, which will try to get between the dog and calves in the herd.

If the cattle charge, let the dog lead drop so the dog can run and the cattle will normally chase it.

The dog will win, so no worries there, and while it’s busy taking the cows in one direction you can retreat to safety.

And while out walking remember to pick up after your dog if it does what comes naturally.

Canine faeces can cause cattle to abort and can lead to blindness in humans when it hits them in the face. That risk is more common than you think because some owners who pick up imagine that hanging the bag in the nearest hedge is OK so take the bag home or deposit it in the first dog bin you find.

That said, get out there and enjoy fresh air at every opportunity.

Kevin Prince has wide experience of farming and rural business in Hampshire, where he lives near Andover, and across southern England as a director in the Adkin consultancy. His family also run a diversified farm with commercial lets, holiday cottages and 800 arable acres.