Horses

Please don’t feed horses

While you are out walking, please do not feed any horses – especially those in the Burton Grange fields.

This is not only for their safety but yours, as they may bite when food is offered (especially the big white one – no matter how friendly he seems!). If continually offered food, they will lean over fences and get caught and pester those who don’t want to be pestered.

Horse deaths have risen dramatically over lockdown due to horses being fed, so please enjoy them from a distance.

This also applies to the horses that are in the field by the river on Rook Street in the summer months. The owner has found all kinds of things thrown into the fields, so please don’t give them anything.

Cattle

Geoff Mason, Organic Farmer – The Meads

Geoff has been farming in Mere for about 30 years as a County Council tenant farmer.

After World War 1, the County Council set up a scheme to encourage farming on smallholdings. The Manor of Mere, which was Duchy land, was split into small farms and sublet to the County Council, who then let the farms to tenant farmers. In some cases, additional land was also compulsorily purchased from larger landowners in the area, to add to the tenanted farms.

Geoff’s farm is three of these tenant farms added together, plus The Meads.

It’s an organic farm, and has dual purpose cattle which are used for dairy and beef. Geoff uses an imported breed called MRI (Meuse Rhine Issel), which are white with brown markings. He also has Holsteins, tall and thin cows, mainly white with black markings.

Much of Geoff’s land is criss-crossed by footpaths, and walkers will often come across his cows on The Meads. While they can seem intimidating, Geoff has some advice for walkers.

“Generally the only ‘mad’ cow is one with a newborn calf, so it’s best to stay at least 20 yards away – just give them a wide berth. They will let you know if you’re getting too close!”

The mothers and calves will generally be in the fields at The Meads from July-September.

As for dog walkers, Geoff says: “It’s fine to walk with dogs off a lead as long as they don’t chase the cattle, and especially make sure you keep them away from calves. The mothers are very protective and may chase your dog. If they do, just let it go – a cow will never catch up with your dog, but you might get hurt if you get in the way.” He suggests that if your dog gets chased after getting too close to the cows, it might be an idea to keep it on a lead the next time.

Walkers also sometimes get intimidated by heifers (young cattle), which can be in The Meads right up until December. They are very friendly and inquisitive and can sometimes follow walkers and their dogs – especially if they run.

Geoff has this advice, if heifers are following you and you feel threatened: “Just turn, wave your arms in the air and shout ‘boo’ at them. It will stop them in their tracks. And don’t run, as they will just run after you.”  

If there’s no running, there’s no chasing.

Geoff Mason

If the worst ever happens (which is highly unlikely) and you ever find yourself in the path of running cattle, Geoff says “stretch your arms out wide either side of you and they won’t touch your hands. It will give you an extra 1m of protection each side.”

On the thorny issue of dog mess, Geoff says: “15 years ago, 10% of calves were being spontaneously aborted due to infection picked up from dog mess left on the pasture land. I’m pleased to say that thanks to dog owners being better at picking up nowadays, that rarely if ever happens. Most people are very good at picking up.”

Geoff’s main concern is that dog waste is kept off the pasture land. Interestingly, he suggests that a compostable bag of dog waste thrown deep into the hedge is preferable to leaving it on the ground. He concludes: “Just no plastic!!”

Cattle on The Downs