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September 2001
 
-Mad cow suspected on Sweadish Farm
-Twelve cited after cockfighting in Minneapolis
-Positive reinforcement taught to horse trainers (below)
-Toxins may have cause horse facilities (below)
-Asias first mad cow scare jolts Japan (below)
-Wendys to change standards
-Boycott of leather from India expands
-MBM used by farms
-Frances UK beef Ban
 
 
Positive Reinforcement Taught to Horse Trainers
by Sophia Yin, DVM
The veterinary schools of both the University of California and the University of Pennsylvania have recently begun promoting positive reinforcement and clicker training in the horse training courses they offer to the public.
 
Applying positive reinforcement techniques to horse training involves having the trainer reward correct behavior, usually with food and/or praise. This provides incentive. A click or some other unique sound is used to indicate when the desired behavior has been performed and that a reward will soon be offered.
 
These methods of animal training were first introduced in the early 1940s, but have become popular only within the last decade.
 
"In traditional training you communicate that the horse has done something correct by leaving him alone-by stopping your leg pressure or pressure on the reins," according to Shawna Karrasch, a former Sea World marine mammal trainer and half of a husband and wife horse training team that travels throughout the United States to teach workshops. "The horse is learning to avoid something. But by putting something into it that the horse really wants, you change the horse's motivation. The communication and motivation go hand in hand."
 
One of the advantages of positive reinforcement is that it does not create fear in the horse the way traditional training does.
 
"You're helping to reduce the fear response, which is really important because when the fear response is gone, it helps the horse to trust you and to concentrate," stated Karrasch. "Right off the bat that's a big change. Especially when you're dealing with performance issues."
 
Dividing activities into small steps is very important.
When teaching a horse to get into a trailer, for example, the Karrasches first reward a front leg bending as if to step up the ramp. Once this behavior is learned, they reward a step onto the ramp. Eventually they go on to the second leg and then the whole body.
 
"You break it into small steps, which makes it easier," Karrasch said.
 
Toxins May Have Caused Horse Fatalities
(C) by The Associated Press
 
 A survey of more than 130 horse farms supports the theory that caterpillars, cherry trees and unusual weather played a role in thousands of foal deaths this spring.
 
The survey of 133 central Kentucky farms was done by University of Kentucky Equine Research Center scientists and veterinarians from the United States Department of Agriculture.
 
Researchers have spent the past several months investigating the theory that mares ingested cyanide toxins from weather-damaged wild cherry trees, substances that may have been delivered through the caterpillars or their droppings.
 
This spring's unusual weather  drought and unseasonable warmth, followed by heavy freezes  is also considered a factor. There also was a higher than usual number of foal deaths during a similar weather pattern in the early 1980s.
 
About 500 foals died and 2,000 fetuses were aborted this spring as the result of a phenomenon scientists later named Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome.
 
The survey revealed that mares most likely to abort or to give birth to foals that died were bred in February 2001, lived near a moderate to high concentration of Eastern tent caterpillars, were in proximity to cherry trees and/or lived with at least 50 other mares.
 
The survey, released Friday, found no relationship between foal deaths and pasture composition, mowing, fertilization, lime, manure, surface water, chain harrowing, feeding grain, bedding type, other animals or dewormers.
 
The survey also revealed that farms that had few or no foal deaths seemed to have very few or no caterpillars and fed hay to mares. Feeding hay may have limited the amount of grass those mares ate, the researchers theorize.
 
While the survey does not solve the mystery of exactly how these toxins killed the foals, it does help pinpoint what to watch for next time.
 
Asia's First Mad Cow Scare Jolts Japan
by Jae Hur and Stuart Grudgings, Associated Press Writers
 
Japan woke up on Tuesday to news it could be facing an outbreak of mad cow disease only months after the government played down warnings that the nation's cattle were at risk.
 
Ministry officials said chances of a serious outbreak in Japan were low after news that a five-year old cow had tested positive in Asia's first reported case of the brain-wasting disease also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
 
But the nation's food and agriculture industry was bracing for a possible crisis as some experts warned that the disease, whose human variant is thought to have killed some 100 people in Britain, could be more widespread.
 
The Holstein cow from a farm in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo was slaughtered on August 6th after showing classic symptoms of the disease, including difficulty in standing. A test on its brain proved positive for the disease.
 
"This case is regrettable," Tsutomu Takebe, the agriculture minister told reporters, saying the ministry was making every effort to deal with the case and keep the public fully informed.
 
The Health Ministry has banned sales of meat products from the farm where the cow was bred, and said the ban could be extended to other farms. South Korea and Singapore moved quickly on Tuesday to slap temporarily bans on meat imports from Japan.
 
Dr. Stephen Dealler, a microbiologist who has worked on mad cow disease, said the case may not lead to a British-style epidemic but would linger for months as more cows were tested.
 
"By the time you see your first case, you've already spread the disease quite a long way," he told Reuters. "By the time you've seen your first one, you are going to see a lot more."
 
The farm in the town of Shiroi where the infected cow was found also has 49 other dairy cows, but a Chiba prefecture official said these were healthy. Chiba prefecture itself has about 60,000 cows used mostly for supplying the Tokyo area.
 
An official panel is to announce on Tuesday whether remains of the diseased cow would be sent to specialist facilities in either Britain or Switzerland for further tests.
 
Norio Tsuruoka, an official in the Chiba government's livestock division, said about 3,000 gallons of milk from the cow had been sold over two years before it was slaughtered, although its meat was not used.
 
Scientists believe milk is unlikely to spread the disease.
 
Although Japan is famous for its expensive cuts of beef, it exports very little  only 358 tons of beef on the bone in 2000  and relies on imports for about two-thirds of its beef consumption.