AS THE days get longer, everyone’s fingers are crossed that the weather starts to improve.

It follows a thoroughly miserable start to the year with high winds and, more recently, it felt that the rain would never stop.

All this poor weather has delayed farmers getting on with their spring work out in the fields. But now things have settled down and a few dry days means that it feels like spring has sprung.

If you are out and about, you cannot fail to notice that the countryside is now bursting into life and activity over the hedges is starting to pick up.

The longer days bring longer hours of work, as tractors take to the fields to plough, sow and roll with this year’s crop for harvest later in the summer. There will be barley, wheat, oats and oil seed rape going in. Later in April, potatoes will be planted, along with a wide variety of vegetables.

All this activity is the process behind growing high-quality, low-cost local food, while looking after the environment and supporting biodiversity.

Nothing says spring like new, young animals frolicking in the sunshine, and lambs and calves will be going out into the fields.

Lambing time is a full-on, around-the-clock time of year, trying to make sure that every lamb arrives into the world as smoothly as possible.

As in life, some deliveries are uneventful, while others need a wee bit of assistance. Getting a young lamb out into the field with its mother is the product of some very hard work, but there is no better sight.

At this time of year, with so many heavily pregnant or newborn animals in the fields, it is so important to keep dogs under close control and, where possible to avoid fields with livestock.

Dogs running amongst ewes and lambs is extremely distressful, and mothers and babies can be separated. In the worst of cases, dogs attack and harm them, and this can be devastating for animals and their owners. There are far too many incidents of dogs attacking sheep.

It can also be dangerous to be in a field of young calves, as mother cows can be very protective of their babies and will approach you if they feel threatened. In these incidents, it is best to walk away from them and, if they go after your dog, drop the lead and get to safety. The dog should be able to outrun them.

For irresponsible owners, if you are caught allowing your dog to chase livestock, you can be fined up to £40,000 for the worst cases and imprisoned for up to 12 months.

While the Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows a Right to Responsible Access, there are so many more new dog owners in recent years who are getting out into the countryside for the first time.

If in the country, it is also important to pick up your dog’s poo and take it home; hanging it on a tree is no good. Throwing it over a hedge into a field is dangerous, as cows and horses then eat these and the bags get lodged in their stomachs. Dog poo is also linked to diseases that can cause illness and death in cattle and sheep.

If you do get out into the countryside, remember this is a working environment. Farmers are doing the important job of putting food and drink on everyone’s table. Take time to look over the hedges and appreciate what it takes to get food from the farm gate to your plate.