Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

How an OAP and his old milk float saved trapped cow

It seemed like mission impossible. When a pregnant cow became trapped in a ravine this week, it stumped all the usual suspects - the RSPCA, the Fire Service and even the Army.

But when all attempts had failed, one man finally came to the rescue.

The unlikely hero, 79-year-old Joe Rogers from Draperstown, Co Londonderry, didn't use any state-of-the-art equipment but rescued the cow using... a disused milk-float.

The former farmer has a reputation across Northern Ireland for recovering all sorts of items from boats and diggers to, in this case, stricken cattle.

'Shorty', a short-horned suckler, who is two months pregnant, had wandered off her usual patch of field near Feeny, outside Dungiven, and got stuck down a steep slope in the Sperrins.

She had gone missing on Thursday last week. A neighbour spotted the distressed cow two days later but all attempts to rescue her failed.

Joe was finally called in and worked with the North West Mountain Rescue team to bring the cow back to safety on Tuesday in what was dubbed 'Operation Get Shorty'.

"I live 10 or 12 miles away and got a call from the farmer's cousin," he said. "The farmer had tried the RSPCA, the Army, mountain rescue and the fire brigade and no one could help. They thought maybe I could help."

Joe had rescued a stricken cow that had got stuck in Glenelly Valley nearly 10 years ago.

"I got her back to the field," he said. "She had two calves, they both lived but she died. This cow has been luckier."

Using his initiative, Joe fashioned an aluminium platform from a disused milk-float and attached two chains to it. A wooden board was also attached to the platform so the cow could lie on its side and not fall off.

"The mountain rescue people were a great help," Joe said. "They abseiled down the slope and helped put the cow on to the platform using a net."

Joe's 16-year-old grandson Shea also worked with the mountain rescue team. Shorty was sedated and then strapped to the platform with cushions under her for comfort. It took eight hours to bring the cow back up the hill.

"I had a winch and a cable at the top of the slope," Joe said. "It was very hard to work on the slope as it was more than a 90 degree angle, so it was a bit of a challenge. Then all of a sudden the cow appeared on the platform over the edge of the cliff."

He described how the farmer's wife, Rosie Gibson, cried tears of delight as she hugged the cow.

"She had fed it from it was a calf, so she was quite sentimental," Joe said.

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