Writtle News

Blackcurrant juice makes weaning piglets easier, according to Animal research

March 2017

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Piglets like blackcurrant juice; and if you wear hair gel a lorikeet is more likely to go on your head when visiting them at a zoo, according to the latest Animal dissertations from degree students at Writtle University College.

Another study established that many parents who consider themselves canine experts did not identify the photo of a scared dog and would have let their child cuddle the animal.

Meanwhile, research conducted by one of a group of students who went on a study trip to a private nature reserve in South Africa established that the change in seasons affects the distribution of the 'near threatened' white rhinoceros.

The dissertations were produced by BSc (Hons) Animal Management and Animal Science degree students as the culmination of their three-year studies.

Dr Jonathan Amory, Principal Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, said: “These research projects show the breadth of interests of our students. At Writtle University College each student gets the opportunity to explore their own particular interests in this independent piece of work, so valued by potential employers.”


Piglets like blackcurrant juice

Alex Evans, BSc (Hons) Animal Management
Supervised by Dr Nicola Blackie

Alex's dissertation found that weaned piglets prefer blackcurrant juice instead of plain water.

Previous studies have established that weaner pigs have 15,000 taste buds compared to a human's 10,000 so are more sensitive to taste and odour.

Alex found that adding blackcurrant flavouring to drinking water affected the drinking behaviour of two sets of weaner pigs at WUC's farm. Encouraging piglets to drink at weaning has been shown to get them to eat solid food faster which will make the transition from milk easier.

The 22-year-old, from Warwickshire, said: “Adding artificial flavouring, and therefore improving the palatability of drinking water for piglets, can prove beneficial to the farming industry by encouraging them to drink more and consequently eat solid feed more. This, in turn, can potentially increase piglet growth rates, particularly relevant when looking at runts and more underweight piglets, and reduce profit losses to the business.”


If you wear hair gel a lorikeet is more likely to go on your head when visiting them at a zoo

Aimee Hill, BSc (Hons) Animal Management (Companion and Zoo Animals)
Supervised by Dr Jonathan Amory

Aimee analysed the feeding behaviour of rainbow lorikeets at Colchester Zoo to see whether it changes depending on the type and location of the visitor.

The 20-year-old, from Cambridgeshire, carried out eight days-worth of observations at Colchester Zoo's enclosure. She found that the lorikeets preferred to feed in the top left hand corner of the enclosure and favoured feeding from the nectar pots held by female adult visitors.

She said: “One of the unexpected results of the study of 2,133 visitors was that lorikeets had a tendency to stand on the heads of people with hair gel or dry shampoo. I think this is because they like to preen the hair gel or dry shampoo from their hair!”


Parents who consider themselves canine savvy did not identify the photo of a scared dog

Jessica Barry, BSc (Hons) Animal Management
Supervised by Nieky van Veggel

Jessica's study looked at whether a parent's understanding of a canine's body language impacted on the safety of children and adults while around dogs.

The 21-year-old from Rainham, Essex, used a questionnaire on Facebook and Mumsnet including images of dog behaviour.

Jessica said: “My study results were surprising in that I found that more parents who understand dog behaviour had never owned a dog. Studies have shown that if a parent isn't able to identify specific characteristics of canine body language then they are unable to teach their own children, which can result in injury and even death.”


The change in the seasons affects the distribution of white rhinoceros on a private nature reserve in South Africa

Charlotte Moore, BSc (Hons) Animal Science (Companion and Zoo Animals)
Supervised by Dr Jonathan Amory

Charlotte was one of a group of students who went on a study trip to a private nature reserve in South Africa as part of her degree.

Charlotte, 21, from Bicknacre, Essex, found there was a significant relationship between habitat type and season favoured by the six white rhinos on the reserve, a specie with a 'near threatened' conservation status.

She said: “This research enables more efficient reserve management within the areas most utilised by the rhinos in a particular season. Improving knowledge of where the rhino are distributed means that staff can manage food resources and vegetation, concentrate fence patrol efforts and other poaching deterrents, and increase organisation of rhino patrolling in a condensed area of the reserve.”