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Posts Tagged ‘cattle’

Not everyone can be an inventor, but inventors can be found everywhere.

“Richard Turere, 13, doesn’t like lions. In fact, he hates them. Yet this bright Maasai boy has devised an innovative solution that’s helping the survival of these magnificent beasts — by keeping them away from humans.

“Living on the edge of Nairobi National Park, in Kenya, Turere first became responsible for herding and safeguarding his family’s cattle when he was just nine. But often, his valuable livestock would be raided by the lions roaming the park’s sweet savannah grasses, leaving him to count the losses. …

“So, at the age of 11, Turere decided it was time to find a way of protecting his family’s cows, goats and sheep from falling prey to hungry lions …

” ‘One day, when I was walking around,’ he says, ‘I discovered that the lions were scared of the moving light.’

“Turere realized that lions were afraid of venturing near the farm’s stockade when someone was walking around with a flashlight. He put his young mind to work and a few weeks later he’d come up with an innovative, simple and low-cost system to scare the predators away.

“He fitted a series of flashing LED bulbs onto poles around the livestock enclosure, facing outward. The lights were wired to a box with switches and to an old car battery powered by a solar panel.

“They were designed to flicker on and off intermittently, thus tricking the lions into believing that someone was moving around carrying a flashlight.

“And it worked. Since Turere rigged up his ‘Lion Lights,’ his family has not lost any livestock to the wild beasts, to the great delight of his father and astonishment of his neighbors.

“What’s even more impressive is that Turere devised and installed the whole system by himself, without ever receiving any training in electronics or engineering. …

Paula Kahumbu, executive director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust …  helped him get a scholarship at Brookhouse International School, one of Kenya’s top educational institutions, where he started last April. …

” ‘One thing that’s unique about Richard is that if you give him a problem, he’ll keep working at it until he can fix it. [He] doesn’t give up; he doesn’t find things too difficult; he’s not afraid of being unable to do something and I think this is why he is such a good innovator — because he’s not worried that it might not work, he’s going to try and do it anyway.’ ”

More here. And you can catch Richard’s TED Talk here. (Yes, he got on TED Talk!)

Photo: CNN

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In February, Treehugger posted an article on sustainable husbandry in Africa by Charlotte Kaiser, of the Nature Conservancy’s NatureVest arm.

“For thousands of years,” she writes, “the pastoralist communities of northern Kenya have herded their cattle alongside elephants and zebras, the grass of the rangelands shared between livestock and wildlife in relative balance. In recent decades, climate change, habitat loss, and human population growth have combined to erode that balance, leading to overgrazing and the degradation of the grasslands that both humans and wildlife need to survive.

“For over a decade, the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) has worked with the communities of Northern Kenya to develop community conservancies that support better management of cattle and grass. …

“A key tool in driving the better management of the rangelands is access to markets. … In 2008, NRT created the Livestock to Markets program (LTM), which brought the market to the Conservancies. In exchange for conservancies achieving specific targets in conservation, LTM buys cattle directly from the conservancies, purchasing several hundred head at a time from dozens of households. Providing access to markets allows pastoralists to better manage their herd sizes, since they know they can sell animals when they need to at a fair price. And LTM also encourages the herders to bank their cash, bringing mobile banking representatives to market days so herders can open bank accounts with the proceeds from the sale.

“Once the cattle are purchased, NRT treks the animals to Lewa Conservancy, a partner NGO. After six weeks of quarantine, the animals move to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, another partner, where they are fattened on grass for 15 months, improving the size and quality of the animals. Finally, the animals are [sold] into the Nairobi meat market. By capturing much of the full value of the supply chain, NRT can pay a levy on every animal they buy to the conservancies themselves. This levy funds conservancy investments in wildlife guards, ecotourism lodges, and community facilities like clinics and schools.” Check out the full article here, and the lovely pictures.

Photo: Ron Geatz
Livestock is the primary measure of wealth among herding communities of northern Kenya.

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John’s web surfing has been turning up topics he knows I’d like, too, and he takes the time to send a link. An article he sent from Modern Farmer describes why scientists are studying cows’ hairstyles.

Anne O’Brien writes, “While a bovine couldn’t care less about a hair whorl gone awry, it may be prudent for the farmer to take note. Turns out there is some serious science behind hair whorl behavior and brain development.”

Hair whorls on cows’ foreheads, O’Brien reports, “may be more than an aesthetic quirk. About two decades ago, animal behaviorists began to notice a connection between crazy hair whorls and crazy animals.

“Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and author of the best-selling book Animals in Translation, first noticed a connection between the location of a bull’s hair whorl and whether the animal was excitable when handled by humans. Studies showed that location — meaning above, between, or below the eyes — as well as shape of the whorl could be, to some extent, a predictor of excitable behavior in cattle. …

“How, then, are hair growth patterns and temperament related? It all has to do with brain development, says Dr. Amar Klar, head of the Developmental Genetics Section within the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland.

“ ‘Our skin and the nervous system come from the same layer of cells in embryonic development, the ectoderm,’ Klar says.

“As embryonic cells migrate to form a developing fetus, skin and brain cells are closely intertwined, particularly at the scalp. …

” ‘When we were looking at brain laterality and the location of internal organs, hair whorls also came up,’ Klar says. His research has shown that within the human population, the majority is right-handed and demonstrates a clockwise hair whorl.

“Livestock seem to mimic this handedness. A study from the University of Limerick in Ireland in 2008 demonstrated that horses with clockwise hair whorls were significantly more likely to move toward the right, or begin a gait with the right-sided hooves — in essence, these horses were right-handed.” More here.

Photo: Temple Grandin
Scientists have been exploring the connection between the cow’s hair whorl and its behavior.

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