Digital sign trialled in Gloucestershire commons cow death fight

Variable message sign Image copyright Gloucestershire County Council
Image caption A variable message sign is being tested in a bid to reduce cattle deaths

A motorway-style message board is being used in a bid to reduce cow deaths on remote roads in Gloucestershire.

Up to 500 animals are released on to the county's commons - open grassland - each year in an event known as marking day.

Last year, eight cows were killed by vehicles despite the introduction of reflective collars to reduce night-time collisions.

The new digital warning sign is being trialled for the first time this year.

Mark Dawkins, Hayward to the commons, said: "It generally happens after dark and they are usually black cattle - so it's fairly obvious why it happens."

Image caption Last year, eight cows were killed by vehicles after being put out to graze on Selsley, Minchinhampton, and Rodborough commons for the summer

This year, the event fell on Friday the 13th.

"I'm not superstitious myself but talking to the grazers, one or two of them will turn out [their cattle] on Saturday," said Mr Dawkins.

"But they won't all go out at once anyway, they dribble out over a few days."

'Reflective cow paint'

With cattle allowed to "free roam", drivers are being asked to stick to a 30mph speed limit across Selsley, Minchinhampton, and Rodborough commons for the summer.

"We've got some new signage going up and we're trying another reflective collar this year - we've had very little success with collars because they tend to fall off or get dirty and they don't reflect anymore," said Mr Dawkins,

"And reflective paint is not a practical solution because you can't paint 400 to 500 cattle.

"So the onus is on motorists to drive a bit more carefully - particularly at night - across the common."

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