Nuffield Reunion for scholars

50 Nov 4 1969 Reflective SM Farm

Motorists in Scotland and elsewhere may soon be thankful for a new ‘breed’ of cattle – the reflective cow. Farmers, too, may be saving valuable livestock from injury if the idea of cattle breeder Mr John MacDonald is successful.

The reflective cow is Mr MacDonald’s “bright” idea to prevent motorists colliding with his cattle. During the winter months they like to lie on the unfenced tarmac roads which they find warmer and dryer than the damp highland grass.

To create this new ‘breed’ farmer MacDonald of Strathcarron, Ross & Cromarty, is marking his herd with a special liquid containing thousands of minute lenses that reflect a car’s headlamps and gives drivers warning that something is in their path.

“About as easy to see as a ghost in fog,” is how Mr MacDonald describes the driver’s task of seeing a black Aberdeen Angus lying on a black tarmac road on a dark night. “Even the red cattle blend in with the surrounding of heather,” he says.

Road safety was another reason for Mr MacDonald’s light-a-cow plan, since as a county councillor and chairman of the Ross & Cromarty highways committee he has a special interest in reducing accidents.

In previous winters several of his herd have been injured as a result of cars hitting them at night and some had to be slaughtered immediately because their injuries were so severe. In most cases the motorists get away with a broken headlamp or buckled wing, but more serious human injury could quite easily occur.

The idea of using the reflective liquid came after seeing a local road hazard being marked with the material and later noticing the brightness with which it reflected headlamps at night.

Mr MacDonald also knew that the same system of using glass lenses to reflect headlights was used in Scotchlite road signs, car safety plates and in the armbands that children are wearing this winter so that they can be seen going to school on dark mornings.

The cow’s equivalent of the armband is a saucer-sized area of Codit reflective liquid (manufactured by the 3M Company) on each shoulder and on either side of its rump.

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