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Three year study into how cows make friends

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Scientists want to understand more about "social networking" within cow communities and are embarking on a three year study.

It's all to help farmers improve the health and welfare of their mooers, to increase milk yields.

Proximity collars (like in the opening scenes of The Running Man only without the explosives) have been fitted to cows on a farm in Cullompton, Devon.

The collars use radio signals to determine how close one cow is to another, allowing scientists to map the animals' social interactions.

Study leader Dr Darren Croft, from the University of Exeter's Animal Behaviour Research Group, said: "Emerging evidence on wild animal populations supports the idea that the group structure and relationships between the animals affect their health and wellbeing.

"Cows are social animals that form important group structures, and the addition or removal of animals from an established group can significantly alter its dynamics. We want to find out just how important these group structures are.

"Dairy farmers take a range of factors into account when deciding how to structure groups of cows. We hope that the results of our study may contribute towards a blueprint for herd management that will help farmers continue to improve the health and welfare of their cows."

Another researcher said: "We will look at the nature of the interactions to see just how relationships are formed and maintained within the herd. In combination with the proximity data findings and other information about the animals, such as their health status, we hope to gather evidence that can be translated into practical advice for farmers when it comes to herd management."

Image: Rex

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