A SOMERSET farmer whose cattle was injured after being spooked by low-flying military aircraft was awarded more than £2,200 in compensation.

The claim is among 824 settled by the Ministry of Defence in the past seven years, totalling more than £9 million.

A settlement of £2,265 was awarded to the anonymous farmer for 'injury to cattle and damage to fencing', following the incident near Wellington on May 24 last year.

Huge, double-bladed Chinook helicopters were to blame for three of the biggest claims paid out in the last year, including a Sussex poultry farmer who netted £23,300 after terrified chickens were trampled to death, while others became too traumatised to carry on laying eggs.

Two years ago a chicken farmer in Oxfordshire received over £44,000 after complaining about a series of low-flying incidents.

Regional branches of the National Farmers' Union have helped hundreds of member farmers process claims against the MoD and in 2011 it published an article in its newsletter on the issue.

Low flying is an essential skill for all military aircrew and the MoD maintains the right to carry out training exercises between 100ft and 500ft above ground level across the whole country.

Despite the substantial sums claimed by some farmers, Ian Johnson, south west spokesman for the NFU, said the long term cost of losing livestock would almost always outweigh the compensation awarded. “The farmer would much rather not have their livestock and business put through the trauma in the first place,” he said.

“The cows in this instance must have been pretty badly spooked to want to go through barded-wired fencing, which no doubt would have resulted in some of them suffering some serious injuries and possibly having to be put down.

“Whatever the circumstances, I suspect the farmer in question was still left out of pocket regardless of what they were awarded, so it is certainly not the kind of thing they wish to enter into.

“At the end of the day it is hard enough to make a living as a farmer without adding further to their problems, so it is quite appropriate that when incidents such as these occur the farmer concerned is reasonably compensated.”

An MoD spokesman said: “Incidents of low-flying aircraft causing disturbance to farms or businesses are rare and we take any complaints seriously.

“The MoD will pay reasonable ex-gratia compensation where a link can be established between MoD activity and any subsequent loss or injury sustained by a claimant.”