Power mooves

19/03/2009

Scientists have followed last year’s discovery that cattle and deer tend to orient themselves north to south when grazing, with another which shows that high voltage power lines  can put them out of alignment.

When the power lines run east-west, that is the way grazing cattle tend to line up, researchers led by Hynek Burda and Sabine Begall of the faculty of biology at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They also found that cows and deer grazing under northeast-southwest or northwest-southeast power lines faced in random directions.

. . . The new study adds weight to the animals responding to magnetic effects, since power lines also produce a magnetic field. And the effect was most noticeable close to the power lines, declining as the magnetic field of the electric lines was reduced by distance.

Wind and weather can also affect which ways cows choose to face, but without such factors about two-thirds of them tended to align north-south when away from power lines.

Dairy sheds are often built near overhead lines because it makes connecting to the power cheaper. I wonder if this means aligning the shed so the cows stand the way they tend to orient would  have an influence, making them more or less happy and productive?


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