Young scientist keeping tabs on wandering cows
THE grass is always greener on the other side for cows, at least when the weather is at it's worst.
This was the main finding that a young farmer came across when presenting his project at the recent BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.
Ian Woods (14), who is a pupil at Mary Immaculate School in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare told the Farming Independent that in an effort to keep tabs on animals on his family dairy farm during bad weather, he strapped trackers to three cows and a bull and monitored them via a weather station on the farm.
"I wanted to see where the cows went during rainy and stormy weather. I was really surprised that the cattle moved more when the weather was wet and windy," he says.
"I would have thought they would go to shelter, but my test proved that the bad weather didn't affect them at all."
He says the findings prove that the age-old mantra of having "good grass" on your farm is right.
"I realised that the cows went wherever the grass was good so they could graze, and it didn't matter how rainy or stormy it was to them," he adds.
"They moved less when it was dry. I'd say that farmers need to make sure they have good quality grass for their cows to graze, and it seems then they won't go off too far."
Ian believes that the experiment will be useful for all farmers to understand how best to manage their animals.
"I am a young farmer and I see the problem that some days our cattle are scattered around and I wanted to see where they'd gone," he says. "I want to be a farmer when I grow up. It's a great job, and if young people like me can make it easier with ideas like this, I think that's pretty exciting."
Another project with a farming twist was a gate designed by Alex Brady (15) and Jack Brady (15) of Coláiste Chroabh Abhann, Kilcoole, Co Wicklow which they believe could save farmers' lives. The gate releases a spring and then locks in place if an animal kicks forward or tries to run ahead while a farmer is loading or unloading a trailer. Little rivets ensure that even if there is a great deal of weight against the gate it won't fling open.
"We came up with the gate idea to try to save farmers' lives," says Alex. "We knew that some farmers are killed or seriously injured by cattle and this was one simple way to help solve that issue.
"My granddad and dad are farmers and I'll probably be one when I'm older too. I think it would be great to have more safety features like this on every farm."
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