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The growth in wirelessly enabled sensor network technologies has enabled the low cost deployment of sensor platforms with applications in a range of sectors and communities. In the agricultural domain such sensors have been the foundation for the creation of decision support tools that enhance farm operational efficiency. This Research Reflection illustrates how these advances are assisting dairy farmers to optimise performance and illustrates where emerging sensor technology can offer additional benefits. One of the early applications for sensor technology at an individual animal level was the accurate identification of cattle entering into heat (oestrus) to increase the rate of successful pregnancies and thus optimise milk yield per animal. This was achieved through the use of activity monitoring collars and leg tags. Additional information relating to the behaviour of the cattle, namely the time spent eating and ruminating, was subsequently derived from collars giving further insights of economic value into the wellbeing of the animal, thus an enhanced range of welfare related services have been provisioned. The integration of the information from neck-mounted collars with the compositional analysis data of milk measured at a robotic milking station facilitates the early diagnosis of specific illnesses such as mastitis. The combination of different data streams also serves to eliminate the generation of false alarms, improving the decision making capability. The principle of integrating more data streams from deployed on-farm systems, for example, with feed composition data measured at the point of delivery using instrumented feeding wagons, supports the optimisation of feeding strategies and identification of the most productive animals. Optimised feeding strategies reduce operational costs and minimise waste whilst ensuring high welfare standards. These IoT-inspired solutions, made possible through Internet-enabled cloud data exchange, have the potential to make a major impact within farming practices. This paper gives illustrative examples and considers where new sensor technology from the automotive industry may also have a role.
The experiment reported in this research paper aimed to determine whether clinical and subclinical effects on cattle were similar if provided with isoenergetic and isonitrogenous challenge diets in which carbohydrate sources were predominantly starch or sugar. The study was a 3 × 3 Latin square using six adult Jersey cows with rumen cannulae, over 9 weeks. In the first 2 weeks of each 3 week experimental period cows were fed with a maintenance diet and, in the last week, each animal was assigned to one of three diets: a control diet (CON), being a continuation of the maintenance diet; a high starch (HSt) or a high sugar (HSu) diet. Reticuloruminal pH and motility were recorded throughout the study period. Blood and ruminal samples were taken on day-1 (TP-1), day-2 (TP-2) and day-7 (TP-7) of each challenge week. Four clinical variables were recorded daily: diarrhoea, inappetence, depression and ruminal tympany. The effects of treatment, hour of day and day after treatment on clinical parameters were analysed using linear mixed effects (LME) models. Although both challenge diets resulted in a decline in pH, an increase in the absolute pH residuals and an increase in the number of minutes per day under pH 5.8, systemic inflammation was only detected with the HSt diet. The challenge diets differentially modified amplitude and period of reticuloruminal contractions compared with CON diet and both were associated with an increased probability of diarrhoea. The HSu diet reduced the probability of an animal consuming its complete allocation. Because the challenge diets were derived from complex natural materials (barley and molasses respectively), it is not possible to assign all the differential effects to the difference in starch and sugar concentration: non-starch components of barley or non-sugar components of molasses might have contributed to some of the observations. In conclusion, substituting much of the starch with sugar caused no substantial reduction in the acidosis load, but inflammatory response was reduced while feed rejection was increased.
Imaging biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease include medial temporal lobe
atrophy (MTLA) depicted on computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) and patterns of reduced metabolism on fluorodeoxyglucose
positron emission tomography (FDG-PET).
To investigate whether MTLA on head CT predicts the diagnostic usefulness
of an additional FDG-PET scan.
Participants had a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease
(n = 37) or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB;
n = 30) or were similarly aged controls
(n = 30). We visually rated MTLA on coronally
reconstructed CT scans and, separately and blind to CT ratings, abnormal
appearances on FDG-PET scans.
Using a pre-defined cut-off of MTLA ⩾5 on the Scheltens (0–8) scale, 0/30
controls, 6/30 DLB and 23/30 Alzheimer's disease had marked MTLA. FDG-PET
performed well for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease v. DLB
in the low-MTLA group (sensitivity/specificity of 71%/79%), but in the
high-MTLA group diagnostic performance of FDG-PET was not better than
In the presence of a high degree of MTLA, the most likely diagnosis is
Alzheimer's disease, and an FDG-PET scan will probably not provide
significant diagnostic information. However, in cases without MTLA, if
the diagnosis is unclear, an FDG-PET scan may provide additional
clinically useful diagnostic information.
Maternal nutrition during pregnancy has a significant influence in establishing patterns of metabolism and postnatal behaviours in offspring, and therefore shapes their risk of developing disorders in later life. Although it is well established that a mismatch between food consumption and energy expenditure leads to obesity and metabolic dysregulation, little research has investigated the biological origin of such behaviour. We conducted the present experiments to investigate effects of early-life nutrition on preference between wheel running and lever pressing for food during adult life. To address this issue we employed a well-established experimental approach in the rat which has shown that offspring of mothers undernourished during pregnancy develop obesity and metabolic disorders when kept under standard laboratory conditions. Using this experimental approach, two studies were conducted where offspring of ad libitum-fed dams and dams undernourished throughout pregnancy were given the choice between wheel running and pressing a response lever for food. Across subsequent conditions, the rate at which the response lever provided food was varied from 0·22 to 6·0 (study 1) and 0·19 to 3·0 (study 2) pellets per min. Compared with the control group, offspring from dams undernourished during pregnancy showed a consistently greater preference for running over lever pressing for food throughout both experiments of the study. The results of the present study provide experimental evidence that a mother's nutrition during pregnancy can result in a long-term shift in her offspring's lifestyle choices that are relevant to obesity prevention. Such a shift, if endorsed, will have substantial and wide-ranging health consequences throughout the lifespan.
In the final stages of an elaborate courtship, many slugs and snails shoot calcareous ‘love’ darts into each other. While darts improve the reproductive success of the shooter, by promoting sperm survival in the recipient, it is unclear why some species have darts and others do not. In fact, dart use has barely been studied, except in the garden snail Cantareus aspersus (Helix aspersa). An evolutionary approach was therefore taken to attempt to understand the origin and use of darts, by investigating mating behaviour in a wide range of species. The prediction was that, because darts could have arisen out of an escalating cycle of sperm digestion and investment in sperm, then darts should be found in taxa that enforce simultaneous reciprocity during mating. Likewise, they should not be found in taxa that mate unilaterally, because the co-evolutionary cycle is absent or reduced. Mating behaviour in 60 genera (28 families) of land snails and slugs was recorded, and compared against dart use across the whole of a stylommatophoran phylogeny. ‘Face-to-face’ simultaneous reciprocal-mating behaviour is restricted to three monophyletic groups of snails and slugs, and dart-bearing species are a subset within the same clades, which suggests a link, though not necessarily a causal one. As yet, we are unable to quantify the extent to which darts or mating behaviour, as well as several other correlated characters, are determined by common ancestry or regimes of natural or sexual selection, because the current phylogeny lacks resolution. However, the results emphasize that to understand the use of darts, then data are required from a wide range of species. The realization that several characters are correlated may stimulate further research, and could eventually lead to some testable models for dart and mating behaviour evolution.
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