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Scientists work to ‘potty train’ cattle
Researchers say the scheme could improve cow welfare and hygiene.
Toilet training could bring welfare and environmental benefits 

Scientists in New Zealand are working on a project to ‘potty train’ cattle, in a bid to improve welfare and reduce environmental impacts.

AgResearch New Zealand began by training eight calves, moving them to a ‘potty stall’ with a remote-controlled feeding station at one end.

Calves were rewarded for urinating or defecating in front of the feeding station. After six weeks and around 60 training sessions, the cows were given free access to the stalls and tested to see if they would use it.

Researchers say the scheme could improve cow welfare and hygiene in dairy sheds, giving farmers greater control over effluent application on pasture. This would offer significant environmental benefits, with reduced nitrogen loss on farms.

Dr Alison Vaughan, who carried out early trial work at the University of British Columbia, is working as a consultant on this project. During a 2017 TED Talk, she said an average cow produces around 15l of urine and 30kg of faeces a day.

“Because of this, barns are often designed to make removing manure easier to keep cows out of manure, but some of these designs and structures can compromise cow comfort and restrict behavioural freedom.”

Data from the recent study will be analysed over the coming months before the findings are published.

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Endangered turtles rescued from smugglers

News Story 1
 A group of endangered turtles have found a new home at London Zoo after being rescued from smugglers.

The four big-headed turtles arrived at the zoo at the end of last year, after smugglers tried to illegally import them to Canada, labelled as toys.

One of the turtles, named Lady Triệu after a Vietnamese warrioress, has moved to a new exhibit in the zoo’s reptile house. She is the only one of her kind in a UK zoo.

Big-headed turtles have such large heads that they cannot pull them back into their shells. To compensate, they have armour plating from head to tail and a very sharp beak to fend off predators. They are ranked number 18 on ZSL’s EDGE of Existence reptile list, which puts threatened species at the forefront of conservation action. Image © ZSL  

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RCVS Fellowship board chair elections get underway

Voting for the 2019 RCVS Fellowship Chair election is now underway. This year four candidates are standing for election, including Dr Robert Huey, Professor John Innes, Professor Liz Mossop and Professor Ian Ramsey.

The Chair will attend and preside over Fellowship meetings and take the lead in consolidating the Fellowship’s position as the learned society of the RCVS. Fellows will receive an email containing a link to the online voting form, as well as candidates’ details and manifestos. Voting closes at 5pm on Thursday, 5 September.