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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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New 'DoggyLottery' to raise funds for rescue centres

News Story 1
 A new 'DoggyLottery' to raise funds for dog rescue centres in the UK will launch on Saturday (4 July). Every four weeks, five different rescue centres will be connected to the lottery, providing much-needed funds - particularly during COVID-19 - and providing vital online exposure.

A weekly game costs £1.50 and entrants will have the chance of being one of 20 guaranteed winners. A massive 60 per cent of the raised funds will go towards the dog rescue centres, more than double that donated by leading lottery companies to charitable causes.

To find out more and play the lottery, visit www.doggylottery.co.uk  

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International Cat Care appoints new head of veterinary division

International Cat Care (ICC) has announced the appointment of Nathalie Dowgray as head of the charity's veterinary division.

Nathalie, who is an RCVS advanced practitioner in feline medicine, will lead the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) and a play key role in advancing knowledge and research in feline medicine.

Claire Bessant, iCatCare's chief executive said: "We're absolutely delighted to be welcoming Nathalie to the charity. She brings a depth and breadth of feline expertise and understanding which fits perfectly with the charity's work and development, and her enthusiasm for cats is infectious."