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Cattle drive... cows cause chaos on M1

Rush hour mayhem as beasts get out of field

By Linda Stewart

Published 20/05/2016

Cows on the M1 motorway yesterday at Ballyskeagh near Belfast
Cows on the M1 motorway yesterday at Ballyskeagh near Belfast

Three cows broke down a fence and took to the M1 motorway at rush hour yesterday morning - sparking long tailbacks.

By afternoon the wandering cattle had been rounded up by police, herded down the motorway and put back in their own field.

Drivers reported the animals wandering along the motorway close to the Applegreen service station near Belfast at around 7am.

The Traffic Watch Twitter account said the cows were walking along the outside lane just before the Blacks Road junction. "Must have missed the bus at Sprucefield Park and Ride," it said.

PSNI Inspector Rosemary Leech said the animals had broken out of their field and made it on to the road.

"The Roads Policing unit got the call from members of the public, telling them they were heading countrybound on the M1 in the city-bound lane," she said.

"They were a couple of tonnes in weight, so the danger to motorists is obvious. However, it was probably less of an issue in slow-moving traffic."

Officers herded the cows along the carriageway to a convenient field, she said.

"The guys identified a field that they were going to be able to get them into. They got them down to the field and got them secure. They are back on to their original field now," she said.

"It's tricky, because you don't know how they are going to react in an unfamiliar environment. There was the fact that they were on a road as well and they just don't like it. We had a dilemma, whether to wear our yellow vests because they really don't like them either, but it's very important to wear that if you're an officer.

"They were clopping along quite vigorously, but it wasn't too bad. They didn't have that vista of the open road ahead of them so they didn't charge. At night the roads are much quieter and when they see a big open road they sometimes make a charge."

Inspector Leech said it could have been a dangerous situation for motorists. "We do have a few officers in that unit who are from a farming background and it's not unusual to them, but when the cows come out into an unfamiliar environment, even fast-moving traffic on the other side of the road can spook them.

"I've seen cows jump the medial divide as well. There is a serious side to it.

"We would appeal to farmers that now is the time that they are putting cattle out to pasture and they should be checking fences, checking they are robust and checking that fence posts haven't rotted over the winter.

"I would also like to take the opportunity to thank drivers for their forbearance."

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