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July 30, 2010

Former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod to sue blogger Andrew Breitbart

Former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod to sue blogger Andrew Breitbart

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Politics and conflicts
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod has said that she’ll “definitely sue” conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.
Image: United States Department of Agriculture.

Shirley Sherrod, an African-American employee of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who was ousted last week, has said that she will “definitely sue” conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart over a video clip posted online at BigGovernment.com, operated by Breitbart, that made her appear racist.

Formerly the director of rural development in Georgia, Sherrod was referred to on Breitbart’s site as a “racist govt employee,” and the video had been edited to make her appear to have discriminated against Caucasians. Sherrod spoke in March of this year at an NAACP meeting. The clip edited from the original video footage of this meeting misrepresents Sherrod as deliberately failing to support a white farmer because of his race. In reality, the full video revealed that Sherrod was speaking about racial reconciliation and the lessons she learned after the episode. However, the USDA asked Sherrod to resign before the full video was released. The farmer mentioned in the video and his wife later stated that Sherrod had actually helped to save their farm, and after the full video was made public, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and US President Barack Obama apologised and Vilsack offered Sherrod a new job with the USDA. However, Sherrod said that she has not decided whether to accept the new position.

Breitbart said that he posted the edited clip to prove that the NAACP has racist elements, and has not apologised to Sherrod. Shortly before the video clip was posted, the NAACP had demanded that the Tea Party, a conservative activist group that Breitbart is active in, remove racism from parts of that group.

However, Sherrod says that she no longer wants an apology. “He had to know that he was targeting me,” the 62-year-old said at a convention of the National Association of Black Journalists.



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December 24, 2009

UK Wikinews Shorts: December 24, 2009

UK Wikinews Shorts: December 24, 2009 – Wikinews, the free news source

UK Wikinews Shorts: December 24, 2009

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A compilation of brief news reports for Thursday, December 24, 2009.

Help Wikinews! Contribute to Wikinews by expanding these briefs or add a new one.


Map of Wales with Carmarthenshire highlighted in red.

6-year-old boy dies in agricultural incident in Carmarthenshire, Wales

A six-year-old boy has died as as result of a farming-related incident in the village of Bethlehem in Carmarthenshire, Wales. The incident, which is not being treated as a suspicious one, is currently under investigation from the Health and Safety Executive as well as Dyfed-Powys Police, the police service in Carmarthenshire. A tractor is believed to have been involved in the incident. The child has now been identified as Dafydd Bowen. It was reported that he was involved in a fatal accident at Pengoilan Farm – the boy’s parents’ farm – on Wednesday at around 1430 GMT.

“I went over their and his parents Gareth and Meryl were very upset,” said Jan Hughes. The woman, who has a neighbouring farm, commented on how she heard an air ambulance arriving at the scene of the accident. “They were just about to go to the hospital when I saw them. It is devastating to hear Dafydd has died, he was such a lovely boy. The community here is shocked,” said Jan. The village of Bethlehem is reported to have been struck by a “wave of grief”.

As a mark of respect for the family of the child, a service which was due to be held at midnight on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem Chapel has now been cancelled. Dafydd himself is due to appear as a part of a school choir on a pre-recorded programme that is still expected to be broadcast. Seren Bethlehem, which was recorded in the village, is due to be broadcast on Welsh television channel S4C on Thursday, and will be a tribute to Bowen.

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Ryanair 737 slides off runway in Glasgow, Scotland

A file photo of a Ryanair 737

A Boeing 737 belonging to Irish budget carrier Ryanair came off the runway at Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport in Scotland yesterday. The jet had landed after a flight from Dublin when it slid on a patch of ice. All 129 passengers and six crew were able to leave uninjured, with the aircraft having its forward and right landing gear sunk into the grass alongside the runway.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service attended as a precaution. Ryanair said the aircraft did not appear to be damaged and that they hoped to minimise any delays. Prestwick has one of the longest runways in the UK. The airport was closed from 0900 until 1100 GMT.

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October 22, 2009

With arrival of rainy season, perennial scramble in Zimbabwe for seed, fertilizer

Filed under: Africa,Agriculture,Archived,Politics and conflicts,Zimbabwe — admin @ 5:00 am

With arrival of rainy season, perennial scramble in Zimbabwe for seed, fertilizer

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

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As Zimbabwe’s rainy season approaches, farmers in the Wedza district, Mashonaland East province, are worried that again this year they won’t be able to locate or afford the seed, fertilizer, and other inputs needed to get a maize crop in the ground.

Flag of Zimbabwe
Image: Madden.

Aiming to relieve such shortages of inputs, Christian Care is among the non-governmental organizations working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Union to implement an agricultural inputs support scheme.

Christian Care said it is now providing farmers in the Midlands with fertilizer and seeds.

Experts said most farmers are struggling to obtain inputs because the government has cut back on programs to finance planting, instead urging farmers to borrow from banks. But banks insist on land as collateral, though all farmland has been nationalized.

Even farmers resettled under land reform since 2000 have only so-called offer letters granting them working rights, but banks will accept neither these nor livestock as collateral.

Christian Care Director Forbes Matonga reported that his is one of seven organizations reaching out to small farmers under the FAO program.

As the rainy season begins, cholera is also now a growing concern. Residents of Zimbabwe, fearing a repeat of the 2008 epidemic that killed thousands, are struggling to complete precautionary measures.



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UN says more investment in agriculture needed to tackle world hunger

UN says more investment in agriculture needed to tackle world hunger

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

The director general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for more investment in agriculture in the developing world to tackle the problem of food insecurity. Jacques Diouf told Parliamentarians attending the 121st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union that more than one billion people are going hungry because of under-investment in agriculture during the past two decades.

Cquote1.svg Where there’s a will, there’s a way Cquote2.svg

—Jacques Diouf

A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program finds most of the more than one billion hungry people in the world live in developing countries. It says no region is immune and hunger is expected to increase everywhere, even in the developed world.

Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, says 30 countries were in a situation of grave food crisis, requiring emergency assistance. He says 20 of them are in Africa and 10 in Asia and the Near East. “The events of the last three years, triggered by soaring food prices and followed by the financial and economic turmoil, have demonstrated how fragile our global food system is. This year’s increase in hunger is not the result of poor harvests or a shortfall in supplies, but rather is caused by the economic crisis which has reduced the incomes and job opportunities for the poor,” he said.

Diouf says under-investment in agriculture and rural development is one of the root causes of the recent global food crisis and the difficulties encountered by the majority of developing countries in dealing with it effectively.

“If people go hungry today it is not because the world is not producing enough food but because it is not produced in the countries where 70 percent of the world’s poor live and whose livelihoods depend on farming activities. The challenge is not only to ensure food security for the one billion hungry people today, which is certainly an enormous task, but also to be able to feed a world population that is expected to reach 9.1 billion in 2050,” he said. He has urged nations to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050, and remarked that “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The FAO chief says studies show GDP growth originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating in other sectors of the economy. He says the solution to food insecurity lies in boosting agricultural production and productivity in poor countries where food shortages are chronic.

Diouf says production has to be increased in the most needy areas, by the most needy people. These are smallholder farmers in rural households.

He says investment in agriculture in developing countries would amount to $44 billion in official development assistance a year. He says the returns from that investment in tackling world hunger would be enormous.



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July 3, 2009

Trees continue to die in Houston, Texas

Trees continue to die in Houston, Texas – Wikinews, the free news source

Trees continue to die in Houston, Texas

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Friday, July 3, 2009

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Relentless drought and record-high temperatures are taking their toll on trees in and around Houston, Texas. Experts estimate as much as 10% of all trees in the area are either dead or dying.

Urban Forester Victor Cordova said, “We water in the morning. We go back and check and it’s like we didn’t even water. The air, the humidity, the heat just sucks up the moisture.” Officials say young trees are in greatest danger; approximately 20,000 trees planted since January are at risk.

Along portions of the North Freeway, workers have been removing dry trees. “At a point we have to go back to the survival of the fittest. Whatever makes it, makes it and whatever doesn’t, doesn’t”, Cordova reported.

Last year’s Hurricane Ike may have also played a role in killing the plants.

Up to 64,000 trees in the Houston area might be lost by the end of this year. However, those planted by the Texas Department of Transportation are still under warranty, and are replaced at no cost to taxpayers.



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July 1, 2009

Heat wave proves deadly for Nebraska cattle

Heat wave proves deadly for Nebraska cattle

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

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Over 2,000 cattle died throughout eight counties in Nebraska last week as a result of an unexpected heat wave. Officials estimate that number could grow as other counties report in.

According to Tim Reimer of the United States Farm Service Agency, cattle nearing slaughter are difficult to keep cool due to their large size, and thus more vulnerable to heat. The animals are provided large quantities of water, but they sometimes stop drinking under the effects of the high temperatures.

The deaths worsened the situation for farmers, who were already struggling with high feed costs. “There were some that took some pretty substantial hits financially”, Reimer said.

Temperatures in eastern portions of the state soared into the mid 90s. The heat wave was preceded by an unusually cool spring, so the animals didn’t have a chance to acclimatise. Terry Mader, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, reported that “Cattle, as well as other animals and humans, usually need two to four weeks to adapt to the changes in environmental conditions we observed last week. Sunny days with temperatures above the mid-80s can be stressful, particularly if there is no wind and humidity is above 50%.”

Similar heat waves occurred during the 1990s, when thousands of cattle were lost. Mader noted, “There’s no opportunity for them to get prepared […] Normally, you’ll have one to two days in a heat wave to get prepared.”

Mature cattle are generally worth US$1,000 apiece.



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June 23, 2009

UN: World hunger at all-time high due to economic slowdown

UN: World hunger at all-time high due to economic slowdown

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Countries by percentile of population suffering from undernourishment. Data from the FAO’s 2006 hunger report.

The number of hungry people in the world is projected to reach an all-time high of 1.02 billion this year, according to a report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The report blames this latest spike in world hunger chiefly on the global economic recession, which has increased unemployment and reduced incomes among the poor, leading to greater food insecurity.

The report, published on Friday, estimates that over 1 billion people will go hungry each day in 2009, a first in human history. This is a significant increase over last year’s estimate of 915 million hungry people. According to the FAO, this increase of around 100 million people is not a result of poor harvests, as in the past, but rather a poor economy.

“A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty,” said Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the FAO. “The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security.”

Although food prices have declined from their record high levels in mid-2008, the report states that global food prices are still high compared to previous years, and that domestic prices remain prohibitively high in developing countries. In Mauritania, for example, a staple food such as wheat still costs over 600 USD per tonne, whereas in the United States the price has fallen below 300 USD.

Cquote1.svg The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security. Cquote2.svg

—Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General

The current economic situation has intensified the problem created by high food prices. Many sources of income for developing countries, including remittances, foreign direct investment, foreign aid, and international trade, are expected to undergo severe declines. In addition, because of the global nature of the economic crisis, previously-used mechanisms such as currency depreciation and borrowing from international credit markets are more limited in their scope, according to the FAO.

In developing countries, the report says, the urban poor are likely to be most affected by the economic slowdown, as their ability to find work is most dependent on factors like foreign investment and export demand. However, rural areas could also be affected, as an urban back-migration to the farms would put more pressure on an already strained rural job market. Budget constraints would lead families to purchase more grain products, which are cheaper than meat, dairy products, and other foods rich in protein. The result of such diet changes is often malnutrition.

Investment in agriculture, according to Director-General Diouf, is the key to overcoming poverty and hunger in poorer countries. These countries “must be given the development, economic and policy tools required to boost their agricultural production and productivity”, he said.

Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, says that investment in agriculture is not only essential for overcoming hunger, but also for promoting economic growth in developing countries. “To unleash this potential and reduce the number of hungry people in the world,” he said, the international community must ensure that farmers “have access not only to seeds and fertilisers but to tailored technologies, infrastructure, rural finance, and markets.”

However, the economic slowdown has forced the UN’s World Food Programme to shut down some of its operations, as it receives less financial aid from donor countries. Out of a required yearly budget of 6.4 billion USD, the agency currently has less than one-fourth of that amount.



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January 31, 2009

Brain chemical Serotonin behind locusts’ swarming instinct

Brain chemical Serotonin behind locusts’ swarming instinct

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

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Desert Locust, (Schistocerca gregaria) Cyrtacanthacridinae, Acrididae
Image: NASA.

The usually inhibited desert locust Schistocerca gregaria, which wiles away the months as a solitary, insignificant grasshopper can shift into horrifying swarms due to a chemical commonly found in people’s brain, a research showed.

The solitary and gregarious phases of locusts are so different that they were considered distinct species until 1921. Scientists have known for several years that touching a solitary desert locust on the hind legs, or allowing it to see or smell other locusts, is enough to transform it into the gregarious phase. This week, Science magazine published strong scientific evidence that the behavioural and physical makeover is effected by serotonin, a carrier of nerve signals in virtually all animals.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Oxford, and University of Cambridge have pinpointed a single neurochemical – serotonin – as the cause of an instinctive behavioural change from the locusts’ solitarious phase to become gregarious and form disastrous swarms of millions.

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) is a monoamine neurotransmitter synthesized in serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) and enterochromaffin cells in the gastrointestinal tract of animals including humans. Serotonin is also found in many mushrooms and plants, including fruits and vegetables.

In the central nervous system, serotonin plays an important role as a neurotransmitter in the modulation of anger, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep, human sexuality, appetite, metabolism, as well as stimulating vomiting. Keeping serotonin levels high is the aim of many anti-depressant drugs. “Serotonin profoundly influences how we humans behave and interact,” said co-author Dr Swidbert Ott, from Cambridge University. “So to find that the same chemical is what causes a normally shy, antisocial insect to gang up in huge groups is amazing,” he explained.

Prior to swarming, the locusts undergo a series of physical changes – their body colour darkens and their muscles grow stronger. The ‘Phase change’ is at the heart of the locust pest problem, for locusts are one of the world’s most destructive insect pests, affecting the livelihoods of 1 in 10 people on the planet. “To effectively control locust swarms, we must first understand exactly how it is that a single shy locust becomes a highly social animal that swarms,” said University of Sydney Professor Steve Simpson who led the research for almost 20 years.

The ‘phase change’ was caused by stimulation of sensory hairs on the hind leg of locusts. Professor Simpson’s team began to investigate the neurological and neurochemical basis of this effect. Dr Michael L. Anstey, of the University of Oxford, supervised by Professor Simpson, and Dr Stephen M. Rogers, part of Professor Malcolm Burrows’ team at Cambridge, led the research investigating this novel field. “Here we have a solitary and lonely creature, the desert locust. But just give them a little serotonin, and they go and join a gang,” said Malcolm Burrows.

Locust from the 1915 Locust Plague
Image: G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.

Of 13 neurochemicals in locusts that were gregarious (swarming form) and solitarious (non-swarming), the only neurochemical that showed a relationship with social behaviour was serotonin. “It was clear that as locusts switched from solitarious to gregarious, the amount of serotonin in their central nervous systems also increased,” explained Professor Simpson. “The next step was to determine if this relationship actually meant that serotonin was the cause of gregarious, and thus swarming, behaviour in locusts,” he added.

To do this, the researchers either added serotonin or prevented the production of serotonin in locusts. The results show unequivocally that serotonin is responsible for the behavioural transformation of locusts from solitarious to gregarious. Serotonin was also found to be involved in social behaviour of species across the animal kingdom, including crustaceans, rats, and humans.

The team has found that swarm-mode locusts had approximately three times more serotonin in their thoracic ganglia, part of the central nervous system, than their calm, solitary peers. “The question of how locusts transform their behaviour in this way has puzzled scientists for almost 90 years,” said co-author Dr Michael L. Anstey, from Oxford University. “We knew the [physical] stimuli that cause locusts’ amazing Jekyll and Hyde-style transformation. But nobody had been able to identify the changes in the nervous system that turn antisocial locusts into monstrous swarms. Now we finally have the evidence to provide an answer,” he added.

“The fact that serotonin causes the transition from a shy, antisocial animal into a party animal means that pharmacologically, gregarious locusts are on Ecstasy or Prozac,” said Professor Simpson, who also explained that “(whilst a very good idea, in reality) it would be difficult to create a locust control agent that interferes with serotonin.”

Professor Simpson’s team has significantly discovered that “locusts offer an exemplar of the how to span molecules to ecosystems – one of the greatest challenges in modern science.” He also offered an explanation on the problem of using a locust control agent: “Because social behaviour in so many animals depends on serotonin, if we used unspecific serotonin antagonists in the environment, we run the risk of affecting other processes in locusts, as well as severely impacting animals other than locusts. We would need to be sure that locusts have a unique serotonin receptor that causes phase change, which we haven’t identified yet. Any locust control agent would have to be specific for this serotonin receptor in locusts.”

Cquote1.svg We knew the [physical] stimuli that cause locusts’ amazing Jekyll and Hyde-style transformation. But nobody had been able to identify the changes in the nervous system that turn antisocial locusts into monstrous swarms. Now we finally have the evidence to provide an answer. Cquote2.svg

—–Dr Michael L. Anstey, Oxford University

This study, which was sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of England, England’s Royal Society, the Australian Research Council Federation, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The scientists that the conclusions of the study will provide a hint as to how to solve the problem of locust infestations, which affect China, Africa, and Australia. Dr. Rogers said the landmark discovery has opened a new area of study into ways of blocking specific serotonin receptors, “something that would allow us to break apart these swarms before they develop.”

Charles Valentine Riley, Norman Criddle, and Sir Boris Petrovich Uvarov were also involved in the understanding and destructive control of the locust. Research at Oxford University has earlier identified that swarming behaviour is a response to overcrowding. Increased tactile stimulation of the hind legs causes an increase in levels of serotonin.

This causes the locust to change color, eat much more, and breed much more easily. Green locusts turn bright yellow and gain large muscles. The transformation of the locust to the swarming variety is induced by several contacts per minute over a four-hour period. It is estimated that the largest swarms have covered hundreds of square miles and consisted of many billions of locusts.

Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), a neurotransmitter that moderates mood
Image: Ben Mills.

“Locust” is the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. The origin and apparent extinction of certain species of locust—some of which reached 6 inches (15 cm) in length—are unclear. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory. They form bands as nymphs and swarms as adults — both of which can travel great distances, rapidly stripping fields and greatly damaging crops. Though there are about 8,000 currently known species of grasshoppers, only 12 form locust swarms.

In the history of the insect Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is probably the most important because of its wide distribution (North Africa, Middle East, and Indian subcontinent) and its ability to migrate widely. Adult Desert Locusts grow to between 2-2.5 inches in length, can weigh 0.05-0.07 oz, and are excellent fliers. In religious mythology, the eighth Plague of Egypt in the Bible and Torah, a swarm of locusts ate all the crops of Egypt. “The gregarious phase is a strategy born of desperation and driven by hunger, and swarming is a response to find pastures new,” Steve Rogers from Cambridge University emphasises.

The extinction of the Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) in the late 19th century has been a source of puzzlement. Recent research suggests that the breeding grounds of this insect in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains came under sustained agricultural development during the large influx of gold miners, destroying the underground eggs of the locust. That species of locust had some of the largest recorded swarms.

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In the 1915 locust plague, which lasted from March to October 1915, locusts stripped areas in and around Palestine of almost all vegetation. This invasion of awesome proportions seriously compromised the already-depleted food supply of the region and sharpened the misery of all Jerusalemites. The plague resulted in several increases to the price of food. On April 25, 1915, the New York Times described the price increases: “Flour costs $15 a sack. Potatoes are six times the ordinary price. Sugar and petroleum are unprocurable and money has ceased to circulate.”

In the 2004 locust outbreak, the largest infestation of Desert Locust happened in Western and Northern Africa, affected a number of countries in the fertile northern regions of Africa. These infestations covered hundreds of square miles and involve billions of vegetation-munching insects, which repeatedly devastated agriculture, and cost huge amounts of money to control.

In November, a locusts swarm 3.7 miles (6km) long devastated parts of Australia. Along the process of their active phases, these insects can eat their own bodyweight daily, and can fly swiftly, in swarms of billions covering 60 miles in five to eight hours in search of food. Researchers are now considering the development of sprays that convert swarming locusts back into solitary insects.

“We hope that this greater understanding of the mechanisms causing such a big change in behaviour will help in the control of this pest, and more broadly help in understanding the widespread changes in behavioural traits of animals.” Malcolm Burrows said. However, according to Paul Anthony Stevenson of Germany’s University of Leipzig, the discovery will not likely to a short-term pest control solution.

“To be effective, antiserotonin-like chemicals would need to be applied when the animals are solitary locusts and scarce targets in vast expanses of desert — about three locusts per 100 square meters (1,076 sq ft),” Stevenson explained. “Current serotonergic drugs are not designed for passing through the insect cuticle and sheath encasing the nervous system, nor are they insect-selective, hence their use is ecologically unjustifiable,” he added.

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January 29, 2009

Dairy cattle with names produce more milk, according to new study

Dairy cattle with names produce more milk, according to new study

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brown Swiss is the breed of dairy cattle that produces the second largest quantity of milk per annum, over 9000kg

Giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual with “more personal touch” can increase milk production, so says a scientific research published in the online “Anthrozoos,” which is described as a “multidisciplinary journal of the interactions of people and animals”.

The Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development’s (of the Newcastle University Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering) researchers have found that farmers who named their dairy cattle Ermintrude, Daisy, La vache qui rit, Buttercup, Betsy, or Gertrude, improved their overall milk yield by almost 500 pints (284 liters) annually. It means therefore, an average-sized dairy farm’s production increases by an extra 6,800 gallons a year.

“Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention,” said Dr Catherine Douglas, lead researcher of the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. “By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal’s welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production,” she added.

Drs Douglas and Peter Rowlinson have submitted the paper’s conclusion: “What our study shows is what many good, caring farmers have long since believed. Our data suggests that, on the whole, UK dairy farmers regard their cows as intelligent beings capable of experiencing a range of emotions.” The scientific paper also finds that “if cows are slightly fearful of humans, they could produce [the hormone] cortisol, which suppresses milk production,” Douglas noted. “Farmers who have named their cows, probably have a better relationship with them. They’re less fearful, more relaxed and less stressed, so that could have an effect on milk yield,” she added.

South Norfolk goldtop-milk producer Su Mahon, one of the country’s top breeder of Jersey dairy herds, agreed with Newcastle’s findings. “We treat all our cows like one of the family and maybe that’s why we produce more milk,” said Mrs Mahon. “The Jersey has got a mind of its own and is very intelligent. We had a cow called Florence who opened all the gates and we had to get the welder to put catches on to stop her. One of our customers asked me the other day: ‘Do your cows really know their names?’ I said: I really haven’t a clue. We always call them by their names – Florence or whatever. But whether they really do, goodness knows,” she added.

King’s Walk, giving access to the Newcastle University Union Society (left) and the arches of the Fine Art Building, leading into the Quadrangle.

The researchers’ comparative study of production from the country’s National Milk Records reveals that “dairy farmers who reported calling their cows by name got 2,105 gallons (7,938 liters) out of their cows, compared with 2,029 gallons (7,680 liters) per 10-month lactation cycle, and regardless of the farm size or how much the cows were fed. (Some 46 percent of the farmers named their cows.)”

The Newcastle University team which has interviewed 516 UK dairy farmers, has discovered that almost half – 48% – called the cows by name, thereby cutting stress levels and reported a higher milk yield, than the 54% that did not give their cattle names and treated as just one of a herd. The study also reveals cows were made more docile while being milked.

“We love our cows here at Eachwick, and every one of them has a name,” said Dennis Gibb, with his brother Richard who co-owns Eachwick Red House Farm outside of Newcastle. “Collectively, we refer to them as ‘our ladies,’ but we know every one of them and each one has her own personality. They aren’t just our livelihood, they’re part of the family,” Gibb explained.

“My brother-in-law Bobby milks the cows and nearly all of them have their own name, which is quite something when there are about 200 of them. He would be quite happy to talk about every one of them. I think this research is great but I am not at all surprised by it. When you are working with cows on a daily basis you do get to know them individually and give then names.” Jackie Maxwell noted. Jackie and her husband Neill jointly operate the award-winning Doddington Dairy at Wooler, Doddington, Northumberland, which makes organic ice cream and cheeses with milk from its own Friesian cows.

But Marcia Endres, a University of Minnesota associate professor of dairy science, has criticized the Newcastle finding. “Individual care is important and could make a difference in health and productivity. But I would not necessarily say that just giving cows a name would be a foolproof indicator of better care,” she noted. According to a 2007 The Scientist article, named or otherwise, dairy cattle make six times more milk today than they did in the 1990s. “One reason is growth hormone that many U.S. farmers now inject their cows with to increase their milk output; another is milking practices that extend farther into cows’ pregnancies, according to the article; selective breeding also makes for lots of lactation,” it states.

Critics claimed the research was flawed and confused a correlation with causation. “Basically they asked farmers how to get more milk and whatever half the farmers said was the conclusion,” said Hank Campbell, author of Scientific Blogging. In 1996, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs provided for a complex new cattle passport system where farmers were issued with passport identities. The first calf born under the new regime were given names like “UK121216100001.”

Jersey cattle being judged at the Agricultural West Show, in St. Peter, Jersey, home of the breed.

Dr Douglas, however, counters that England doesn’t permit dairy cattle to be injected hormones. The European Union and Canada have banned recombinant bovine growth hormone (rGBH), which increases mastitis infection, requiring antibiotics treatment of infected animals. According to the Center for Food Safety, rGBH-treated cows also have higher levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), which may be associated with cancer.

In August 2008, Live Science published a study which revealed that cows have strange sixth sense of magnetic direction and are not as prone to cow-tipping. It cited a study of Google Earth satellite images which shows that “herds of cattle tend to face in the north-south direction of Earth’s magnetic lines while grazing or resting.”

Newcastle University is a research intensive university in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east of England. It was established as a School of Medicine and Surgery in 1834 and became the “University of Newcastle upon Tyne” by an Act of Parliament in August 1963.

The School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development is a school of the Newcastle University Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering, a faculty of Newcastle University. It was established in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne as the College of Physical Science in 1871 for the teaching of physical sciences, and was part of Durham University. It existed until 1937 when it joined the College of Medicine to form King’s College, Durham.



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July 1, 2008

Truck carrying 12 million bees overturns in New Brunswick

Truck carrying 12 million bees overturns in New Brunswick

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

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A truck on the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick, Canada, carrying 12 million bees has overturned. The truck was carrying 330 crates of bees when it tipped on a ramp in Saint-Léonard. The bees were used to help pollinate blueberries, and were heading back to Ontario.

The accident happened in the morning hours. Bee experts were called in to control the bees, and they were helped by the rain as bees dislike it, with the bees staying close to the truck. However, by midday, the sun came out and the bees became much more agitated. The beekeepers had to douse them with smoke, while firefighters attempted to hose the bees down to try to get them back near the truck.

There were no serious injuries from the incident, but some reporters at the scene got stung repeatedly. Anyone with an allergy to bees has been advised to stay at least 200 metres away from the scene.

The highway was first reduced to three lanes from four, before being completely closed, to prevent curious onlookers from being endangered by the swarms of bees angered and agitated by the incident.

This accident was the first of its kind in New Brunswick.



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