Without honey bees, the world’s food crops would not have a primary means of pollination. Which, in simpler terms means – NO FOOD! If you’ve been watching the news in the last several years, you know that honey bee populations are declining. Fast. This decline has already caused problems for farmers – and eaters. Fortunately, though, researchers all around the world are working hard to figure out what is happening to the honey bees. One really cool project in Australia has honey bees outfitted with Radiofrequency Identification (RFID) tags – like little GPS chips! These RFID tags are capable of tracking everything about what the honey bees are doing from location to environmental conditions. With knowledge of what the honey bees are experiencing, researchers can figure out ways to help save them – which will ultimately save our food supplies!
Chickens can talk – you just have to know their language! A team of researchers at Georgia Tech and University of Georgia are developing a sort of Rosetta Stone for chicken-speak. Working with Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, they’re turning recordings of chicken vocalizations – clucks and squawks – into parameters that can be evaluated for health and well-being. By simply listening to the chickens (with high tech electronic listening devices!), flock managers will be able to tell if the animals’ conditions are comfortable. So, instead of relying only on environmental sensors of conditions, they chickens themselves will say how they’re feeling. Now how cool is that?!!
Wouldn’t it be cool if an animal could be simply fitted with an ear tag that could keep track of her health and transmit data to the herd manager? Sounds pretty space-aged, but they’re already in use! These devices can tell how an animal is moving – which can give clues to her condition. For example, if she starts walking slower than normal, she might be lame or otherwise feel bad. Technology like this has been used to track feeding behavior for a while now, but these new ear tags appear to do a better job than old technology. Very cool!
Headshaking is a very frustrating condition in horse. You know your horse is uncomfortable – maybe even in pain. And any horse owner will tell you – we hate when our horses are in pain! It’s also very similar to a certain type of facial pain in people. Researchers in the UK tried out a new treatment on a group of horses with this condition – and it helped! They used a device called a Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS) to stimulate the problematic nerve. The treatment plan appears to be beneficial in reducing the headshaking – which will make the horses (and their owners) feel better.
So what makes a pony a pony? Height! Pony breeds, like the Shetland, have a breed standard height. Researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland have figured out the gene that may be responsible! This is great news for ponies. Why, you ask? Certain heights of pony are more desirable – with this genetic knowledge, pony breeders can tailor their matings to focus on these desirable heights. This could have the effect of reducing overbreeding and so-called “unwanted” ponies. This research could have implications for the study of human health conditions related to height, too.
Three words can strike fear into a pork producers heart: Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea, or PED. Back in 2014, PED spread through herds killing as many as 80% of infected piglets. What about the survivors, though? Would they have lingering effects of the disease that would affect their future performance? They do – so the problem with PED isn’t just the loss of life; it also includes loss of overall production. The take away message I see in this study is this: Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene! The best way to avoid losing piglets – and future production – to PED is to prevent it. Good husbandry practices that control and prevent contamination are well worth any extra costs involved.
Read the science: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4359118/
Droughts can be devastating to livestock herds – especially when it’s super hot. Like most summers. A cool recent study shows that sheep have a biomechanical process to cool their brains in times of dehydration. But there’s a kicker! Turns out, the selective brain cooling may not be for the sake of cooling. It seems to be a way to conserve water in the body! The sheep that are able to do this selective brain cooling can withstand the lack of water better than others that don’t exhibit this selective brain cooling.
Read the science here – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4326457/
Finally! There is proof of what we horse lovers have known for a long time: Horses can smile. And pout. And show all sorts of other facial expressions. When you think of horse communication, the first thing you think of are the ears. We really don’t think about them communicating like we do – with eyes, mouth, and eyebrows. This new knowledge has implications in the study of facial movements and how we communicate with them. I will sure be paying closer attention to my horses and what their whole faces are saying!
When you think of biomedical research, you think of rats and mice, right? If so, you’re not alone. But – it’s so much more than that! The health and wellbeing of our livestock is a very important field of research – with far reaching consequences. For example, remember back in 2014 when Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or the PED virus, nearly devastated the pork industry? Livestock and agriculture research is where these types of problems are studied and solved.
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