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Bristol vets produce training video for broiler farmers
Positive behaviours in broiler chickens include running, jumping, wing flapping, scratching at litter and dust bathing.

Video a ‘much-needed resource’ to train producers in what to look for

Researchers at Bristol Veterinary School have teamed up with the Co-op and FAI Farms to produce a training video for broiler farmers to help improve chicken welfare.

The video follows four years of research by the organisations, which revealed gaps in the current training given to new broiler farmers. In the first instance, around the importance of observing broiler behaviour and in the second, how farmers can improve chicken welfare by encouraging positive behaviours.

It will be shown to all new chicken farmers within the Co-op supply chain and will form part of the broiler welfare training module - a requirement of all farmers producing chickens to Red Tractor Standards.

"We have worked with industry partners to produce and evaluate the effectiveness of this evidence-based training video,” said Dr Siobhan Mullan, a senior research fellow in animal welfare at the Bristol Vet School. “We are delighted that it will be made widely available through UK training courses and hope that, in combination with other initiatives, it will help to deliver real improvements to bird welfare."

Positive behaviours are those that animals are highly motivated to carry out and create feelings of enjoyment or pleasure. In broilers, this includes running, jumping, wing flapping, scratching at litter and dust bathing.

The video shows broilers displaying positive behaviours alongside commentary on why these behaviours are vital for the welfare of birds. It calls attention to the importance of litter, explaining why dry, friable litter is desirable for bird health and environmental enrichment. Furthermore, it also urges farmers to take time out of their day to observe the behaviour of their birds so they can quickly spot anything that might be wrong.

Feedback so far from experienced farmers about the video has been positive. Ninety-five per cent of Co-op farmers who participated in a trial said it was was 'very to extremely effective' in explaining the benefits of observing birds. A further 83 per cent said they would be looking for and encouraging specific positive behaviours when observing their birds in the future.

"Expression of specific behaviours that are important to an animal is crucial in ensuring they have a life worth living,” said Annie Rayner, research manager at FAI farms and PhD student at the University of Bristol.

“Good farm management is key to providing opportunities for these behaviours.This video is a much-needed resource to train producers in what to look for and to pay attention to the behaviour of their birds. With 20 million broilers a week being produced in the UK and this video being made available to the entire UK industry, we hope that this resource helps towards improving the welfare of millions of birds."

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Rare chimp birth announced at Edinburgh Zoo

News Story 1
 The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) welcomed the birth of a critically endangered western chimpanzee on Monday 3 February at Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.

The baby girl will be named in the coming days through a public vote, and staff will carry out a paternity test during its first health check to determine the father.

Mother Heleen's first infant, Velu, was born in 2014, making this new baby only the second chimpanzee born in Scotland for more than 20 years.

Budongo Trail team leader Donald Gow said: "While we celebrate every birth, this one is particularly special because our new arrival is a critically endangered Western chimpanzee, a rare subspecies of chimpanzee."

Image (c) RZSS/Donald Gow. 

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News Shorts
BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.