COWS in the New Forest are being fitted with reflective ear tags in a bid to prevent them being killed on the roads.

Many of the Forest's free-roaming ponies wear special glow-in-the-dark collars which make them more visible at night by reflecting car headlights.

But similar collars attached to cows often fall off when they forage for food in hedgerows.

Now the number tags they wear in their ears are being replaced with hi-vis versions in an attempt to reduce the number of cattle killed or injured in accidents.

All the animals which graze the Forest are owned by people known as commoners - villagers with the right to let their stock roam the landscape.

Commoner Colin Moore discovered that reflective ear tags were being used in America and ordered some for his own animals.

The scheme is now being rolled out across the Forest by the Verderers, who administer the commoning system.

Tony Hockley, chairman of the Commoners' Defence Association, said: "Pony deaths have halved over the past 20 years. Cattle deaths fluctuate but the average has not changed in 40 years.

"Last year lost 12 cows from 43 recorded accidents.

"A collision with a cow can also be very serious for the the driver involved. Cows on average weigh about 1000kg.

"All the reflective ear tags offered at our annual meeting were taken and the Verderers have ordered a further 1,000 or so.

"We know they show up in the dark. Even if only a few catch the light as a herd of cows crosses the road it can only help."