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Scientists work to ‘potty train’ cattle
Researchers say the scheme could improve cow welfare and hygiene.
Toilet training could bring welfare and environmental benefits 

Scientists in New Zealand are working on a project to ‘potty train’ cattle, in a bid to improve welfare and reduce environmental impacts.

AgResearch New Zealand began by training eight calves, moving them to a ‘potty stall’ with a remote-controlled feeding station at one end.

Calves were rewarded for urinating or defecating in front of the feeding station. After six weeks and around 60 training sessions, the cows were given free access to the stalls and tested to see if they would use it.

Researchers say the scheme could improve cow welfare and hygiene in dairy sheds, giving farmers greater control over effluent application on pasture. This would offer significant environmental benefits, with reduced nitrogen loss on farms.

Dr Alison Vaughan, who carried out early trial work at the University of British Columbia, is working as a consultant on this project. During a 2017 TED Talk, she said an average cow produces around 15l of urine and 30kg of faeces a day.

“Because of this, barns are often designed to make removing manure easier to keep cows out of manure, but some of these designs and structures can compromise cow comfort and restrict behavioural freedom.”

Data from the recent study will be analysed over the coming months before the findings are published.

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Veterinary Evidence Student Awards winners revealed

News Story 1
 The first winners of the RCVS Knowledge Veterinary Evidence Student Awards have been revealed.

Molly Vasanthakumar scooped first prize for her knowledge summary comparing the ecological impact of woven versus disposable drapes. She found that there is not enough evidence that disposable synthetics reduce the risk of surgical site.

Second prize went to Honoria Brown of the University of Cambridge, for her paper: ‘Can hoof wall temperature and digital pulse pressure be used as sensitive non-invasive diagnostic indicators of acute laminitis onset?’

Edinburgh’s Jacqueline Oi Ping Tong won third prize for critically appraising the evidence for whether a daily probiotic improved clinical outcomes in dogs with idiopathic diarrhoea. The papers have all achieved publication in RCVS Knowledge’s peer-reviewed journal, Veterinary Evidence.  

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Animal Welfare Foundation seeks new trustees

The Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) seeks three new trustees to help drive the charity’s mission to improve animal welfare through veterinary science, education and debate.

Veterinary and animal welfare professionals from across the UK may apply, particularly those with experience in equine and small animal practice and research management. Trustees must attend at least two meetings a year, as well as the annual AWF Discussion Forum in London.

For more information about the role, visit www.animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk. Applications close at midnight on 13 August 2019.