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Study reveals how cows indicate feelings using their ears
cow
"Understanding animal emotions is crucial if we are to improve animal welfare as emotions play a major role in an animal’s mental well-being."

Understanding emotions crucial to improving animal welfare

New research into how to measure the emotional state of cows has suggested that it may be possible to tell how a cow is feeling from the position of its ears. It also reveals that, like our pets, cows display visible signs of pleasure at being stroked.

Nearly 400 observations of 13 cows were taken by scientists at leading animal welfare charity World Animal Protection.

The study showed that when cows were stroked for five minutes, an experience that put the cows into a calm and relaxed state, the cows performed either a backward ear posture or a hanging ear posture, where the ear fell loosely, perpendicular to the head. This contrasts with the more usual position of the ear before and after stroking of either upright or forwards.

Previous studies have suggested that ear position may provide clues to how sheep and pigs are feeling, however this is the first study to look at whether cows display similar traits.

Helen Proctor from World Animal Protection said: “Although these results need further validation using different stimuli, they do indicate that the use of ear postures may provide a quick, non-invasive and low-cost measure to assess the emotional state of dairy cows.
 
“Because emotions are defined as short lasting, it is possible that ear postures may provide both an immediate indicator of the cow’s emotional state and may also be indicative of a longer lasting mood state. 

"Understanding animal emotions is crucial if we are to improve animal welfare as emotions play a major role in an animal’s mental well-being. Research into positive emotions must therefore continue, and reliable indicators of positive emotions need to be developed and applied in practice so that animal welfare can continue to improve.”

It is hoped that the study will be of use to the dairy industry in their programmes and understanding of their cows. 

Can ear postures reliably measure the positive emotional state of cows? is published in Applied Animal Behaviour

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Big Butterfly Count returns

News Story 1
 The world's biggest survey of butterflies is back for 2020!

Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count launches on Friday, 17 July and will run until Sunday 9 August. Members of the public can get involved by downloading the Big Butterfly Count App or recording results on a downloadable sheet available from bigbutterflycount.org/.

'It's a fantastic activity for people from three to 103 years and we'd encourage everyone to take 15 minutes in an appropriate outdoor space during sunny conditions to simply appreciate the nature around them and do their bit to help us understand butterfly populations,' said a Butterfly Conservation spokesperson. 

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New appointment at Dechra

Dechra Veterinary Products Ltd (Dechra) has announced a key appointment to support veterinary professionals across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Karen Hockley has been appointed as a telesales account manager and will provide the latest products, news and developments from Dechra. She joins the company from a large mixed practice in Northern Ireland where she was the branch manager.

Before that, Karen had worked for a multinational veterinary pharmaceutical company as a key account manager for Northern Ireland. She can be contacted at karen.hockley@dechra.com or 087 219 54 30.