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Advice on public rights of way through fields with livestock

View profile for Rhys Evans
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"There is a public right of way through my land where I graze cattle and I’m concerned that either my animals, or a walker, could be injured. What steps can I take to prevent this?"

Public rights of way can be found across the majority of privately owned land across Wales, however, when cattle are also using that land additional considerations come into effect.

Legally, it is an offence to allow a bull in a field which is crossed by a public right of way due to the increased risk to members of the public, which could also result in harm to the animal.

However, there are exceptions to this, if the bull is younger than 10 months old or it does not belong to a recognised dairy breed then this does not apply.

While the law relates more specifically to bulls, it’s always advisable to consider any risks posed by large horses, cows, and animals with young calves too.

We’d always urge landowners to take precautions to protect not only the public but their livestock by considering erecting fencing or signs, which clearly state where the public right of way is, and how the public should behave when accessing it to avoid potential risk.

It is wise, where possible, to ensure that any livestock is fenced in to prevent any interaction between the animals and the public and minimise potential risks. This clearly indicates to the public that the livestock is out of bounds and should not be approached.

You may also consider erecting signs on your property warning walkers that there is livestock in the field, and advising them to keep dogs on a lead.

These signs should be placed in a prominent position where walkers and the general public can clearly read them. For advice on what to include on your signs, and how to clearly inform the public, refer to the HSE’s Cattle and Public Access in England and Wales leaflet.

If a member of the public is injured by livestock on your land you could be held legally liable for this, so it’s vital to ensure you have taken all reasonable measures to reduce the risks.

JCP’s Rural Practice team specialises in a wide range of legal services, whether you need legal assistance with succession planning, agricultural business, or expert advice on land use and environmental issues. To discuss rural matters contact Rhys Evans on 03333 208644 or email

The question posed is based on a hypothetical situation. This content does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only.