A PERTHSHIRE farmer has had his flock of pedigree sheep attacked by a dog after it managed to get into the field and charge at them.

Tom Paterson, of Alyth, Blairgowrie, said he may have lost thousands of pounds because of the incident, which left snowy fields covered in blood.

One of the killed ewes was in-lamb, while others may not be able to walk again due to damage on their hind legs.

An investigation has been launched by Police Scotland in order to find the dog and owner responsible for the sheep worrying.

Mr Paterson said: “We had driven the flock into the field to get them ready for the shows.

“It was on a snowy day that the attack took place, and we found the field covered in blood with the sheep scattered all over it, from end to end.

"The dog had disappeared but it had made a real mess, leaving one dead.

"Lots of hind legs were also attacked, and some of the ewes will never walk right again."

Mr Paterson is unsure of how much the attack will cost him exactly, but that it could be thousands.

He added: "We just purchased one of the attacked ewes for £2300.

"It's hard to always keep an eye on and protect your livestock, and it really does depend on your luck.

"People are just being careless with their dogs - all they need to do is walk them carefully and look after them!"

Reports of sheep worrying have been submitted more in the past four months than the last six years altogether, while the National Farmers Union Scotland is expected to publish a report about sheep worrying within the next few months.

Police Scotland’s Inspector Kevin Chase, said: “Owners have to be vigilant when out walking their dogs and make sure their dog is on a lead at all times when sheep are present.”

NFU Mutual has also warned farmers to watch out for livestock worrying, due to the cost of claims reaching a record level.

The organisation has advised farmers to check their stock regularly, put up warning signs and make sure hedges, walls and fences are properly maintained.

With many families expected to visit the countryside during the Easter holidays, the insurer has launched a campaign urging dog owners to keep their pets on a lead at all times, and for people to report out-of-control dogs to a local farmer or the police.

New figures show that the cost of dog attacks on livestock reported to NFU Mutual rose by nearly 50% across the UK in 2016.

The total cost to the industry is estimated at £1.4m.

The costs more than trebled in Scotland and doubled in the Midlands, while the average cost of a claim rose by nearly £500 to just over £1,300.

Rural Affairs Specialist at NFU Mutual, Tim Price, said: “As the insurer of nearly three-quarters of the UK’s farmers and many hobby farmers, we are sadly all too aware of the heartbreak and huge financial loss that dog attacks cause.

“For small farmers in particular, livestock worrying is devastating because it has a huge impact on their productivity.

"While insurance can cover the cost of replacing stock killed and the treatment of injured animals, there is a knock-on effect on breeding programmes that can take years to overcome.

“We are seeing higher individual costs of claims resulting from worrying, which may be due to an increase in numbers of some pedigree and rare breed sheep.

“The number of incidents reported to us is a small fraction of the total, which we estimate cost the industry £1.4 million last year.

"Often, farmers don’t report livestock worrying because their sheep have simply disappeared, or they can’t prove the animals’ deaths or injuries were caused by dogs.”

To help reduce the risk of a dog worrying attack on your sheep or cattle, NFU Mutual advised the following:

Check stock regularly in case any have been attacked

Put up signs warning dog owners to keep their pets under control on your land

Maintain fences, walls and hedges to make it more difficult for dogs to get into grazing fields

Report any attacks to the police immediately

Ask neighbours to alert you if they see loose dogs near your livestock

A campaign has also been launched to highlight to dog owners who live in, or walk their dogs in, the countryside, that they must act responsibly and keep their dogs under close control.

Dog owners are being warned their animal could be killed if it is found to be in the presence of sheep, even if it has not physically attacked them or chased them.

Follow Police Scotland's Facebook thread for more information.