| || |
Comic lovers will rue the fact that the Dandy no longer drops through letter boxes, but Desperate Dan and his favourite Cow Pie can still be enjoyed, online. Today would be a good time to visit him, for it is Pi Day, and indeed a rather special Pi Day: with a minimum of effort the 14th of March 2015 becomes 1.4315 and if you are reading this at 9h, 26m and 53 seconds it becomes even better, 1.431592653 is Pi to 10 digits. Pi day has been officially recognized by the US House of Representatives and is the day on which prospective MIT students hear the outcome of their application, emailed at exactly 6.28 pm so as to avoid any numerical pi/tau discrimination! March 14th is a relatively important day in other ways: Einstein's birthday (ouch, not my best ever pun!) and the first of two family birthdays on consecutive days, Julia's then Steph's. However, if you miss reading the Blog on the 14th then don't worry, you have a second chance to celebrate Pi, since the 22nd of July (22/7) is Pi Approximation day. How does Cow come into this? Well, apart from our obvious predilection for all things bovine, Circumference Over Width magically gives us Pi, a useful trick if you ever need a circle's dimensions and can't remember whether 2πR is area or circumference. Of course, there are also other meanings for the term Cow Pie. In the UK it would be a Pat rather than a Pie, perhaps abbreviated from the lovely term Pasture Patty, also known as a Meadow Muffin. Yes, we are talking Bullshit! Cow dung is celebrated in song (the Meadow Muffin Blues will definitely get you tapping your feet!), sport (how far can you throw one?) and as an energy source, thankfully only for the hearth. A little diversion, whilst it is brought to mind. Do you have wings? Apparently it is now official that Red Bull does NOT give you wings, the Austrian drinks manufacturer having being sued for making that claim in their advertising. The new campaign takes a different tack, and the Red Bull energy drink now features zero calories. Apparently they have found a way around the First Law of Thermodynamics, either that or they think no-one will spot a second litigation opportunity. My gym sells another energy drink, that offers Red Fuel with No Bull (clever!). It has a curious colour that reminded me very much of field work on the farm; the diesel I regularly poured into the tractor's fuel tank was dyed to indicate its low-tax status. Known colloquially as red diesel, it has the exact same appearance as the energy drink! Back to our favourite topic, and, if bulls can be red, can cows be orange? Apparently they can, in a way, but only if they are elephants. South Devon cattle are reputedly the largest of the native British cattle breeds and, although primarily kept for beef, are regarded as a potential dual purpose breed. Supposedly they are known locally as Orange Elephants, although I have to say that I never heard that term used (we had South Devons in our beef suckler herd) and the Herd Society webpage does not mention the name. Clever marketing on the part of a farmer-ice cream manufacturer perhaps, but they are lovely cattle. They travelled with the Mayflower to the Americas, and currently enjoy Royal patronage from Prince Charles. As a four year-old, Charles entered a group of Devon cattle into the Bath and West Show, reported, curiously enough, by the Chicago Tribune. We are not told if he won! There is also an Orange Cows Project, to supply breeding cows to Vietnamese families affected by Agent Orange spraying. But, as so often happens, I have wandered off-track a little. What I actually wanted to talk about was the wonderful experience we had in Cordoba recently, talking about cows (and other dairy animals), and marvelling at the beauty of this ancient city. And, of course, its orange trees! They were everywhere! The best way to pick the oranges was to take the open-top bus tour (the streets were delightfully narrow), but actually you could reach some from ground level too. There is a good reason why so many oranges remain on the trees, uneaten. These are bitter oranges, beautiful to look at but far too sharp to eat. The reason for being in Cordoba was, of course, the Second DairyCare Conference, where Rosalita was ready to welcome us. Most of you will be well aware of DairyCare, but for anyone who has discovered the blog a different way, please do visit and explore our webpage. We are scientists, technicians, industry and end-user representatives from diverse backgrounds who share an interest in dairy animal health and welfare research. Our objective is to help develop and implement technologies that will assist good husbandry by monitoring the wellbeing of individual animals and identifying those that require special care. The Conference was a great success, many speakers, many poster presentations, excellent industry involvement and an opportunity to learn about EU funding for research. The Andalucian hospitality was wonderful, excellent food (the wine glasses are a total misrepresentation!) and incredible weather, prompting us to hold the Poster session outdoors. Apologies to those who had to retrieve their posters from the ground, the sun being so hot that the sticky tape gave up! And now we can return, scientifically, to cow pats. Assessing welfare in animals is difficult, for the simple reason that animals cannot tell us how they are feeling. One of DairyCare's objectives, therefore, is to identify useful biomarkers of health and welfare. Many secretory products are present in faeces for excretion and removal from the body. One of these is cortisol, the "stress hormone" produced in response to acute and chronic pain, inflammation and general stress. Lameness is one of the two most prevalent and painful diseases of cattle, the other being mastitis. Victor Jurkovich and his colleagues from Hungary measured faecal cortiosl levels in lame and healthy cows, but found no detectable difference. So, the search for a suitable biomarker continues.
Jurkovich, V et al (2015) Geometric and non-linear parameters of heart rate variability as indicators of chronic stress caused by lameness in dairy cows. Proc. Second DairyCare Conf. 34