Farmer fined after hikers attacked by cows

  • Health & Safety
Farmer fined after hikers attacked by cows on public right of way
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

Two friends walking on a public right of way in North Yorkshire were forced to climb a tree to escape more than a dozen cows

They were passing through the fields and public rights of way near Shaws Farm, part of a circular walk from Masham. Janicke Tvedt and David Hood were accompanied by their pet labrador, Goose, who was on a lead. On 25 July 2021 they entered the field off Foxholme Lane and noticed several cattle within. Many cows were with calves, so they gave them a wide berth. Despite this, they encountered a lone cow with two calves, and their dog was quickly attacked.

They managed to get away but were cornered by other cows. 57-year-old Ms Tvedt was knocked to the ground and trampled; Mr Hood managed to help her up and they climbed a tree nearby to escape.

The attack on Ms Tvedt resulted in seven broken ribs, hoof marks on her chest and legs, a broken thumb, and life-changing severe internal injuries. She was airlifted to hospital for emergency surgery. Three years on, Ms Tvedt still suffers from restricted mobility, but she wants to share her experience so that others are not caught off-guard by the dangers of cattle.

“I had the imprints of hoof marks, bruises, cuts and grazes all over my body,” she said. “I was convinced that if I fell asleep, I would never wake up.

“I still have anxiety when on walks in the countryside and am always on alert for the presence of cattle.

“We live in a rural community and there are lots of footpaths around the fields in the area and I do not want other peoples’ lives to be at risk.

“I want to ensure the emphasis of my story is to improve awareness of the dangers of cows, particularly those in fields with footpaths.

“I am determined not to take on the mantle of being a victim as it’s disempowering.”

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found insufficient measures being taken to reduce risk by the farm’s owner, Martin Falshaw. A sign that was supposed to warn public about cattle had been destroyed and was not replaced.

Cattle are large and powerful animals, and can easily crush, kick, butt or gore people in their way. They are known to be protective of their calves and unpredictable in behaviour when they feel threatened. This poses significant risk to walkers, particularly those with dogs.

For this reason, the HSE issues guidance for farmers and landowners responsible for cattle:

  • Where possible avoid putting cattle (especially cows with calves) in fields with public access.
  • Keep animals and people separated wherever possible, including erecting fencing (permanent or temporary).
  • Assess the temperament of any cattle before putting them into a field with public access.
  • Animals that show signs of aggression must not be kept in a field with public access.
  • Clearly sign post all public access routes across the farm. Display signage at all entrances to the field stating what is in the field (e.g. cows with calves or bulls).


Martin Falshaw of Falshaw Partners, Shaws Farm, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (2) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £770.50 and ordered to pay £4,539 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Howard Whittaker said:

“The injuries sustained by Janicke have been devastating and completely changed her life.

“However, given the nature of the attack, the end result could have been far worse and resulted in two people losing their lives.

“Public knowledge – and concern – is increasing about how dangerous cattle can be. We completely echo the countryside code which urges walkers to beware of the dangers. On this occasion, the pair tried to stay well away.

“Cattle are extremely protective of their calves and even calm cattle can become aggressive if they think the calves may, in any way, be threatened, even by members of the public walking past.

“Where possible, farmers should avoid putting cattle, especially cows with calves, in fields where members of the public have a legal right to walk.

“Had Martin Falshaw followed this advice, or effectively segregated the cattle, this incident could have been prevented.”

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