College takes pride in animal welfare

They may not be walking and talking with the animals quite yet but students at Easton College are watching the behaviour of their creatures more closely than ever.

They may not be walking and talking with the animals quite yet but students at Easton College are watching the behaviour of their creatures more closely than ever.

The students want to know exactly how their own movements, noise, light and other activities affect the animals in their care.

The study has been prompted by new Government-backed funding for the college through Vetnet Lifelong Learning Network, set up to support education centres in animal care.

"It's a big day for us and an exciting development for the college," said deputy principal Tricia Bell as she signed a partnership agreement with Vetnet LLN.


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Natasha Waller, the college's project manager for the scheme, said the main aim was to encourage people joining animal care courses to see their career more as a profession.

"We have a pot of money now to help increase their educational skills and one project will be to research animal behaviour in relation to the humans here.

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"Up to 30 students are involved in various projects which will involve horses, sheep, rodents and reptiles."

Tess Southernwood, lecturer in animal science and welfare, said that their research and monitoring programme over the next year would look at changes in both the activity of the animals and their physical welfare.

"There's been an increasing number of students over the past four years. Has it changed the health of the animals or their stress levels? Do we need to change the 'golden ratio' of animals to students, or add to our stock of creatures?"

She said many of the animals under scrutiny were nocturnal and students would be creating artificial night and day environments to extend the research.

They hoped to soon have night vision cameras as well.

Student Sarah Fossey, 23, from Martham, who is on a foundation degree course in animal science and welfare, is helping in another project with fellow student Terri Moralee, from Little Plumstead, on equine nutrition.

"We're looking at the effect of feeding some of our horses here on an alternative natural diet of lucerne, rather than hay. It is a crop which takes them longer to eat so can improve their digestive systems," said Sarah, who hopes to go on to a career as a vet.

John Butcher, eastern region manager for Vetnet LLN, said he was delighted to welcome Easton College as a key partner which would receive a share of the £3.75m of government money being made available to encourage interest in animal care as a profession. We want to see it used in a way which benefits students as directly as possible with projects like this, hands-on tutorial support and career guidance."

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