Once the animal rescue group, the fire service and the Army were stumped the obvious person to call was Joe Rogers. When everyone else failed the 79-year-old, Draperstown, County Derry pensioner wowed crowds as he used a milk-float to save a pregnant cow that was stranded down a ravine.
The Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the fire department and even the Army could not figure out a way of rescuing the helpless pregnant animal trapped down the steep slope in Sperrins. However locals knew that Rogers would find an answer.
A former farmer, Rogers has developed a bit of a reputation for recovering items including boats and diggers. In this case, Shorty, the short-horned suckler, was well and truly stranded.
Roger’s explained the series of events that saw “Operation Get Shorty” put into place.
He told the Belfast Telegraph “I live ten or 12 miles away and got a call from the farmer's cousin…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."
This wasn’t Roger’s first cow rescue. Ten years ago he had rescued another cow out of the Glenelly Valley. Recalling his first cow recue Rogers said “I got her back to the field. She had two calves, they both lived but she died. This cow has been luckier."
In the case of Shorty’s rescue Rogers built an aluminum platform from the back of an old milk-float (the light open-sided vehicles used in Britain and Ireland to deliver milk). He attached two chains to it and a wooden board for the terrified cow to lie down on.
Rogers said “The mountain rescue people were a great help…They abseiled down the slope and helped put the cow on to the platform using a net."
Shea, his 16-year-old grandson, worked with the team. It took eight-hours to get the cow up the steep slope.
He continued “I had a winch and a cable at the top of the slope…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."
Rosie Gibson, the farmer’s wife cried with joy as she hugged the rescued cow. Rogers explained “She had fed it from it was a calf, so she was quite sentimental."