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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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Vets asked to opt-in to Scottish SPCA fostering programme

News Story 1
 The Scottish SPCA is encouraging veterinary practices to opt into its new fostering programme, by agreeing to register foster animals when approached by one of the foster carers.

The programme goes live in August 2021, and will help to rehabilitate animals under the Scottish SPCA's care until they are able to be properly re-homed. The programme will help the animals to receive care and attention in a stable and happy home environment, as some animals do not cope with a rescue and re-homing centre environment as well as others.

Specific information for veterinary practices on the new programme can be found at www.scottishspca.org/veterinarysurgeons 

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Webinar provides insight into old age pets

A new webinar providing insights into the BSAVA PetSavers Old Age Pets citizen science project is now available free of charge to its members via the BSAVA Library

The webinar presents an exclusive insight into the research process and progression of the study, which aims to help veterinary professionals and owners provide the best care for their senior dogs.

It also discusses the study's research methods, the researchers' personal interests in this area of study, and how they envisage the findings being used to create a guidance tool to improve discussions between vets and owners about their ageing dogs.