New cow disease: Mycoplasma bovis


Mycoplasma bovis is on many farmers’ minds and has the potential to hit dairy and beef sectors in the pocket, but what actually is this disease?

What we know

  • This is the first time the disease has been found in New Zealand.
  • The disease causes mastitis, pneumonia, abortions and lameness, and can result in the deaths of cows and calves.
  • The disease can be hard to detect and treat because it has special characteristics including: The lack of a cell wall so that certain widely-used antibiotics are not effective; an ability to hide away from the immune system so that infections are difficult for cows to fight; the ability to create conditions that allow evasion from antibiotic treatment (eg within large abscesses).
  • Not all infected cows get sick or show signs of the disease, making it hard to detect. Some shed the disease without becoming ill, allowing for transmission between farms if these cows are moved.
  • It is mainly spread through ‘nose to nose’ contact between cattle through mucus and bodily fluids, and by direct contact with between infected animals and equipment which has been used on infected animals.
  • Mycoplasma bovis does not infect humans and presents no food safety risk. There is no concern about consuming milk and milk products.
  • MPI said all products from infected cows are fine for human consumption. This includes dairy and dairy products once pasteurised and all meat products.
  • While some of the conditions can be treated, affected cattle will always be carriers of the disease.
  • In Australia, the disease is throughout most dairying regions and had devastating impacts on some individual farms, leading to cows and calves being killed.
  • Since the disease arrived in Australia farmers have been using a PCR test, which detects evidence of infection in bulk milk.

Read more…

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Animals Always: Is There Enough Room in the Ark?


You often hear people comparing zoos to modern-day arks.

I guess in the case of many species — those that are extinct in the wild or those that are found in tiny numbers — zoos are pretty much their last hope. The problem, though, is the numbers part.

If you start with a small number of animals in any given species, the odds of them dying off completely are high. Makes sense, right?

If you start with a large number of animals, the odds are much better.

So, here’s the problem.

Our Zoo has a lot of different species, but in many very important cases, we don’t have as many animals as we need to feel sure that we’ll have that species at our Zoo 15 or 20 or 50 years from now. That’s bad.

What can we do about it?

Well, the first thing is that we could cooperate with other zoos. We keep a few animals of a certain species, others keep a few, and when you add it all up, there’s enough to ensure that we’ll have them in zoos for the long-term future. And that’s exactly what we do.

Many species found in zoos here in the United States and also in zoos around the world are in what we call Species Survival Plans (or SSPs). For an SSP, we basically run a giant computerized dating service designed to encourage genetic diversity, keep inbreeding to a minimum and keep the number of animals to the maximum for a very, very long time.

I say a “very, very long time” because theoretically that 100-year clock resets every single day. Long story short, we want to keep them safe in zoos forever.

OK, we know that in order to be successful at keeping inbreeding to a minimum (and have plenty of animals), you must have quite a few animals to start with. How many is quite a few?

The number depends on how long the animals live, how often they reproduce, how many young they have and other variables.

Sadly, with some animals, their numbers are so small that we just allow them to breed without any concern for the genetic mix. That happened here with the addra gazelles many years ago. They had almost died out in American zoos and we, here in St. Louis, had the largest remaining herd.

Thanks to our Zoo, that species has rebounded in zoos across the country.

That’s critically important because addra, and other gazelles of the sub-Saharan reaches, are dangerously close to extinction. But, thanks to our Zoo, we should have enough animals to do a reintroduction back to the wild when the time is right. (By the way, it looks as though things turned out all right from a genetic point of view. We think we got lucky there.)

We had enough addra gazelles to bring the population size back up to a stable number, but that’s not always going to be the case. Let me give you an example using one of the most popular animals at the Zoo — Kali the polar bear.

In the late 1920s, American zoos began to exhibit and breed polar bears in earnest. Their numbers grew steadily because they bred well in zoos, but by the late 1980s, their numbers began to decline.

Zoos like ours decided polar bears needed better exhibits, so they stopped breeding polar bears and allowed existing ones to live out their lives. Long story short, on April 1 of this year, there were only 54 polar bears distributed among 29 American zoos.

However, only 39 of those were still young enough to reproduce. The natural mortality rate is about 4 percent per year. Put all that together and it’s predicted that we will have 29 bears left in 15 years.

Ideally, we’ll pair those bears up; however, with 29 bears for 29 institutions, that means that half of the zoos won’t have a bear.

Put another way, there’s a 50/50 chance that the Saint Louis Zoo won’t have a polar bear in 15 years.

What I’m driving at is this: Even if we cooperate with all the other zoos, all the zoos in the nation (or even the world) may not have enough animals right now in their respective zoos to ensure that we will have any given species around in zoos a long time from now.

Here’s the sad truth.

We have 579 different species in SSPs in North American zoos. Of those 579 species, 131 species are in the same category as Kali. For all practical intents and purposes, they will almost certainly disappear from zoos within the lifetime of a young child.

Only 47 species are species that we are pretty sure we will still have in zoos 100 years from now. The rest of those species, 320 of them are on the bubble.

If we did something about it now, we could ensure that we’ll still have them 100 years from now. If we don’t do something about it? Well, they’ll disappear. And that would be a tragedy.

So, what exactly would we do? The answer is pretty simple. We can take some of those 320 species that we’re not already too late to save and find enough space to breed them in places other than here at the Zoo.

For hoof-stock (think zebras, takin, wild asses and so forth), such a place would look a lot like a cattle ranch. For amphibians, we would take a totally different approach.

If we don’t figure out a way to do it, our children’s children may not ever forgive us. I hate the idea that my grandchild may never see a live polar bear at our Zoo. Or, for that matter, anywhere.

Read more…


Vaccinate Horses against West Nile Virus


It’s that time of year again. West Nile virus (WNV) has been detected in mosquitoes in Salt Lake County, Utah. Now is the time for area horse owners to call their veterinarian for appropriate vaccinations for your work, pleasure, and companion equine partners.

West Nile is transmitted to horses via bites from infected mosquitoes. Clinical signs for WNV include flulike signs, where the horse seems mildly anorexic and depressed; fine and coarse muscle and skin fasciculation; hyperesthesia (hypersensitivity to touch and sound); changes in mentation (mentality), when horses look like they are daydreaming or “just not with it”; occasional somnolence (drowsiness); propulsive walking (driving or pushing forward, often without control); and “spinal” signs, including asymmetrical weakness. Some horses show asymmetrical or symmetrical ataxia. Equine mortality rate can be as high as 30-40%.

There are a multitude of vaccinations available for equids, but that doesn’t mean your horse needs all of them. It is best to develop a program or plan with your local veterinarian that reflects what your animals’ specific needs are based on risk of disease even if you vaccinate them yourself. Some basic parameters to consider are the animal’s use, location, age, and lifestyle, such whether they travel to shows and other venues or remain on the ranch or farm.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) considers several vaccines “core,” meaning nearly all horses should receive them each year. These vaccines include those that protect against tetanus, Eastern and Western equine encephalomyelitis, WNV, and rabies. The AAEP considers other vaccines “risk-based.” Veterinarians recommend risk-based vaccines depending on the horse’s region, population, and disease risk. These include: anthrax, botulism, equine herpesvirus type 1 and 4, equine viral arteritis, equine influenza, Potomac horse fever, rotaviral diarrhea, snakebite, and strangles.

If your animal has never had a particular vaccination, he or she might require more than one shot to build the proper immune response and then receive periodic boosters after the initial series. The vaccinations should be given at least two weeks before exposed to an anticipated risk. It is important to remember vaccines are designed to reduce disease but not necessarily eliminate them. They should be used as “one tool in the toolbox” to accompany good management strategies and biosecurity practices. read more…


How to Handle Cow-Calving Difficulties


We chose to raise Dutch Belted cows on our homestead because heritage breed cows are good at taking care of themselves. They survive well on grass without grain supplements, they instinctively care for their young, and for the most part, they have easy births. Calving difficulties do happen though, and we want to be prepared when that happens.

How to Check for Calving Difficulties

How to recognize when your cow is in labor: Keep track of your cow’s due date and begin watching her about a week before. Labor could be underway if she goes off by herself, gives repeated low-pitch moo’s, and alternately stands and lies down. There’s no need for us humans to do a thing if calving progresses well.

When to call the veterinarian: We once lost a heifer when waiting too long to call the vet. Therefore, I want to share two calving situations where our intervention may be necessary. If you have watched a cow in labor for an hour, and there is no progress, call the vet. If you see the bag of waters break and the calf is not born within 20 minutes, call the vet. In these situations, the cow and calf need assistance.

Learn to feel for calf position: There may indeed be times when we don’t know how long the cow has been in labor. There are other times, especially in the middle of the night, when five minutes seem like an hour. If you’re not sure what’s going on, and if your cow will allow it, go ahead and check for the calf’s position.

To check for the calf’s position before a hoof has even peeked out, halter the cow or put her in a head-gate or stanchion. Next gently put a gloved hand up the cow’s vagina no higher than your wrist. This gentleness is important because we don’t want to break the bag of waters. You should be able to feel a foot—hopefully two—with a nose just above and slightly behind the hoofs. If you feel two hoofs and a nose, stand way back and allow the cow the peace she needs to deliver the calf herself. read more…

Shop Calving Supplies here…


Dogs lose their appetite when depressed just like humans


There’s nothing like a good scratch.

However new research has shown that far from the picture of satisfaction and contentment, itching and scratching is a tell-tale sign of depression in dogs.

Scientists discovered that dermatological issues are not only one of the most common health problems among dogs – they’re also one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety.

One in six trips to see a vet are due to skin problems for dogs. And 75 per cent of dogs diagnosed with dermatological issues suffer depression meaning thousands of pets are probably suffering from the blues.

A series of studies by Zoetis, the world’s leading animal health company, showed that dogs suffering depression exhibit many of the same traits as people.

The most common symptom was being less playful, followed by being less sociable with people, restlessness, decreased appetite, and interacting less with other dogs.

And depression in dogs has a knock-on effect on their owners, with 80 per cent saying their pet’s condition diminished their own quality of life as well.

Dr Anita Patel, one of Britain’s leading veterinary dermatologists, said: “Most people assume that itching and scratching is totally normal dog behaviour. The odd scratch is fine but when you see a dog frequently itching, scratching, nibbling or licking themselves, that’s a strong sign of a skin condition. Left untreated, this can exacerbate the problem and lead to more serious issues.

“What’s not been properly understood previously is how dermatological problems can affect a dog’s wellbeing. What we now know is that skin issues can be one of the biggest causes of depression for dogs. And like people, when a dog is depressed, they lose interest in the things they usually love – like going for a walk, playing, or having a fuss from their owner.”

Itchiness in pets – known as pruritus – is defined as an unpleasant sensation that provokes the desire or reflex to scratch.

It is common in many types of skin disorders and is often accompanied by red, inflamed areas of skin and may lead to pyoderma – infection of the skin.

Analysis of more than 80,000 veterinary appointments at more than 200 practices across the UK found the condition is most common around the ears, accounting for 44 per cent of cases, or around the legs and feet – 27 per cent.

Experts say that consistent itching, scratching, nibbling, biting and licking in dogs is not normal behaviour and owners should seek veterinary help if they see these symptoms.

Allowing a dog to continue to itch and scratch can lead to skin damage with potential for creating a secondary infection requiring antibiotic treatment.

Flea allergy is one of the most common causes of the condition, so summer is the season when dogs are most likely to develop it. Pet owners are urged to use parasite prevention treatments to avoid pruritus in the first place.

It can also be caused by food and contact allergies to shampoo or other household products, while the more serious atopic dermatitis is associated with environment allergens such as pollen and dust.

If allergies are untreated the dogs can get a skin infection and need to be treated with antibiotics prescribed by their vet.

However, for dogs already suffering pruritus, combating the condition has historically been difficult because existing treatments are typically steroid-based and can lead to numerous side effects.

But a new single injection is targeting the itch signalling in the brain. It works neutralising the protein triggered by the immune system which tells the brain to scratch.  read more…

Shop Your Zoetis Product here…

Add antioxidants to your protein shake to recover faster


Tearing up a new workout routine guarantees you’ll be sore tomorrow. But add a few antioxidants to your post-workout drink and you may be back in the gym faster, according to a new study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

When Skidmore College researchers gave 60 guys different recovery drinks after strength-training sessions, those who downed a mix of whey protein plus an antioxidant-rich blend reported less muscle soreness and more muscle function 24 hours later compared to guys who drank just a protein shake or a sugar-water carb drink.

How does the supercharged shake help reduce aches? When you lift weights, the micro-damage you’ve incurred on your muscles sets off a chain reaction including a cascade of inflammation, which helps clear out the biological debris and repair the tissue. Certain antioxidants in berries (called anthocyanins) blunt this inflammatory cascade, and because pain is a result of the inflammation, you’re blessed with less muscle soreness and therefore better muscle function, allowing you to get back into the gym faster, explains lead study author Paul Arciero, Ph.D., director of Skidmore College’s Human Nutrition and Metabolism Laboratory.

In the study, Arciero’s team had the guys focus on eccentric workouts to make their muscles as sore as possible. Even if you don’t do eccentric workouts, Arciero says, the antioxidant aid will probably help reduce the aches that come after any high-intensity, exhausting workout—as long as the workout is difficult enough to cause muscle damage.

Plus, previous research suggests the same supp may help your performance: When trained athletes took 100mg of anthocyanin pills daily for six weeks, their VO2 max improved (though the supplement had no effect on body fat, lean mass, or water retention), according to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Even then, it’s still unclear how long one should take antioxidants—they might hinder long-term muscle adaptation by reducing the inflammatory “cascade”—but Arciero says small antioxidant doses for short periods of time don’t affect your ability to rebuild muscle.

Our recommendation: Add the nutrients to your muscle-building meal plan the week you start a new routine, since that’s when you’ll be the most sore.

In the study, researchers added an anthocyanin-rich powder, OptiBerry, into typical whey protein shakes. (The supplement company had no involvement in the research, which is definitely a mark in the study’s favor.) The study participants said the blend didn’t taste any better or worse than pure protein, so it’s actually drinkable (which is kinda crucial here). read more…




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How Equine Diets Affect the Immune System in Horses?


The role of diet in general health is fairly obvious; you eat well, you exercise enough, and hopefully your body has the fuel it needs to help protect you into a long life.

Christina Inserillo says, “The same basic principle, unsurprisingly, applies to animals. Horses, in particular, are known for their susceptibility to certain illnesses; things like tetanus, sleeping sickness, influenza, rhino-pneumonitis, West Nile Virus, rabies, strangles, and arthritis are unfortunately not as uncommon as we would like.”

However, it is thought that by supplementing the diet of healthy horses with the appropriate foods they need to source the nutrients required for a functioning immune system, you can help protect them in the long-term.

One student currently working towards her graduate degree in animal health has been looking into the subject as part of her studies. Now an expert in the area, Christina Inserillo has been riding horses for years and competed in many competitions. Her childhood love for the animals has led her on to her current path, where she hopes to make a significant positive impact in helping horses around the globe stay healthy.

While it’s less clear whether horses suffering from illness can make a recovery thanks to a good diet, science over the last three decades has allowed equine nutritionists to expand on their knowledge of how horses digest food and use it to stay healthy.

At the 15th Annual Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference in Hunt Valley, Maryland in April this year, one nutritionist presented on the topic. Lori Warren, PHd, PAS, who is an Equine Nutritionist at the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida, spoke at length about how food affects horses.

“The processes of digestion and immunity are interwoven,” said Warren. “Over 70% of immunity is associated with the digestive system.”

To simplify, she explained how the immune system works on a fundamental level. First, it has two main components: one is the innate immune system, and the other is the adaptive immune system.

The innate system provides the first line of defense in fighting pathogens (organisms which cause disease) and is kind of an “umbrella” or “catch-all” system; more of a jack-of-all-trades than a specialist. All of us are born with this innate system, and it continues to work – more or less – the same way for as long as we exist.

The adaptive system, on the other hand, is trained by its own experiences. It starts to store and recall information on pathogens it interacts with so that it can fight them faster the next time they’re encountered.

While it does do a lot of work on its own, it is possible to boost the adaptive system by using what we know as vaccinations. These can be a quick way to boost the immune system, but – of course – can only be used to protect against certain illnesses.

In this way, the innate and adaptive systems coordinate an effort to help protect a horse’s health.

In recent years, though, it has become particularly common for horse owners to purchase nutritional supplements in the hope that they’ll boost the immune systems of their pets. Whether or not these supplements are genuinely as effective as it would seem, it’s still unclear.

Warren herself has said that more research needs to be done on foods which treat digestive health, specifically on probiotics in horses.

The ambiguity in the topic stems from the fact that researchers are not yet able to properly analyze the immune system of horses to determine what effects the food they eat have. One possible solution to this is for them to compromise the health – or challenge the needs of – the immune system of healthy horses.

An alternative proposal is to test particularly nutritional foods and nutritional supplements on horses which may already have compromised health (which is often a consequence of stress caused during transport, weaning stress, or exposure to inflammatory agents).

However, as basic as their current understanding may be, it has been established that there are several nutrients which will – to some extent – benefit the health of equine animals. This list is relatively broad, and includes things like fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Researchers have also documented the results of fat and fiber in the immune systems of horses, and Omega-3 fatty acids have already exhibited positive effects, most notably when it comes to their anti-inflammatory properties with respect to osteoarthritis and inflammatory airway disease.

Similarly, functional fibers (found in probiotic-rich foods such as beet pulp and oat hulls) can help to battle pathogenic bacteria in the gut by assisting bacteria to produce significant volumes of volatile fatty acids. Read more…