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Sheep forage differently depending on how healthy they are, study shows
By avoiding high-quality vegetation, less healthy sheep limited encounter rates with ticks, therefore reducing infection risk.

Researchers use GPS trackers to analyse foraging habits

A recent study from the University of Bristol has revealed that when foraging, less healthy sheep will avoid high-quality vegetation due to a higher risk of infection from ticks.

In this study, researchers from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and Veterinary School fitted GPS trackers to 23 ewes in the uplands of Dartmoor. The trackers were set to record the ewes’ location every two minutes over a period of eight days.

These 114,093 location recordings were then integrated with satellite data of vegetation quality, field sampling data showing tick prevalence, and parasite load and health measures for each sheep.

Analysis of this data showed that sheep assessed as more anaemic avoided dense, high-quality vegetation where ticks are typically found. By reducing encounter rates with ticks, these sheep also avoided a higher risk of infection.

In contrast, healthier sheep appeared undeterred by the potential risk of infection from ticks. Favouring areas providing greater high-quality vegetation and foraging intake.

Lead author Caroline Liddell, a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) PhD student from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Discovering that the trade-off between maximising forage intake and minimising parasite encounter depends on the health status of individual sheep emphasises the need to study livestock as individuals, even in group-living animals such as sheep. GPS tracking technology provides a feasible and increasingly affordable means of obtaining such individual-level data.

“Our study, which used extensively grazed sheep as a model system, opens new possibilities to study free-living grazing systems, and illustrates the benefits of using GPS technology to advance our understanding in this area.

“Future studies could use controlled interventions, such as anti-parasitic treatment, to separate cause and effect and develop understanding of the processes generating the observed associations.”

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Celebrity chefs urge public to get baking to support Cats Protection fundraiser

News Story 1
 In support of Cats Protection's Pawsome Afternoon Tea fundraiser, Masterchef winner Tim Anderson and Great British Bake Off star Kim-Joy have shared biscuit recipes to help keen bakers raise money for needy cats across April.

The celebrity chefs are both cat owners and have said that they hope this fundraiser will help to raise awareness of cats in need and the importance of adopting a cat, rather than buying one.

This is the fourth year Cats Protection has run its Pawsome Afternoon Tea campaign, which encourages people to hold tea parties, bake sales and fundraising events to help raise money for the charity.

To view the recipes and other fundraising resources please visit the Cats Protection website. 

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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.