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Lame sheep adjust their behaviour to reduce discomfort, study finds
Best practice for lameness relies on fast treatment, but currently no validated commercial tools exist to help with diagnosis.

New sensing technology could improve sheep health

A study from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science has shown that lame sheep will adjust how they carry out certain activities, such as walking, standing or lying down, rather than reducing the amount of activity.

The study used a new prototype tagging and monitoring system, developed by Dr Jasmeet Kaler, associate professor in epidemiology and farm animal health, along with companies Intel and Farm Wizard. The technology is worn on a sheep’s ear tag and gathers accelerometer and gyroscope data to track the animal’s behaviour and movement.

Detecting lameness has previously been difficult as it relies on visual inspection. Researchers were not only able to detect the features of lameness using the new technology, they also identified behaviours which are far more difficult to spot with the human eye.

When walking, the main characteristics of lameness were frequency, linked to rhythm and pace, researchers say this could be the result of reduced mobility in lame sheep, leading to changes in acceleration and rotational movement.

There was also a change in the gait of lame sheep, with ‘peculiar head nodding’ in line with their stride, compared to smoother stride patterns in non-lame sheep.

According to the report, the results for classification of lameness had a higher accuracy within lying and standing activities.

The most notable features include a mixture of frequency and time-domain features, suggesting differences in the variability and smoothness of movements for both standing and lying down between lame and non-lame sheep that may be attempting to alleviate pain caused by the lameness.

Commenting on the results of the study, Dr Kaler said: “This has been the first report of its kind and given lameness classification is possible within all these activities this helps to improve the accuracy as well as flexibility in terms of energy requirements. This automated system for the lameness detection can help improve sheep health and welfare on farms.”

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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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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.