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The petting zoo full of ROBOTS: Cyborg animals with light-up tentacles have 'personalities' that react to touch

The petting zoo full of ROBOTS: Cyborg animals with light-up tentacles have 'personalities' that react to touch | ALS animals |

A petting zoo featuring light-up 'cyborg creatures' instead of the usual rabbits and miniature goats has opened in France.

The robotic animals have bright, flexible tentacles and react when touched, much like a living animal, as each arm has features and 'personalities' that change according to the activity of visitors.

Juliet Hanna's curator insight, October 31, 2014 2:28 PM

this is interesting 

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On shelters & storms, rules & regs

On shelters & storms, rules & regs | ALS animals |

Though cleaning and fixing up after Hurricane Sandy will be the work of years, the storm is behind us now -- good news for the animal shelters where power outages necessitated heroic emergency efforts on behalf of the animals living in them.

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Financial Aid Mounts for Blizzard Victims

Financial Aid Mounts for Blizzard Victims | ALS animals |

HADDONFIELD, N.J. (DTN) -- Aid continues to pour in for victims of the Atlas Blizzard that struck western South Dakota in early October.


The South Dakota Cattlemen's Association is discouraging immediate donations of live animals, given that ranchers are struggling with cleanup operations in addition to normal fall roundup and pre-winter operations. Instead, state livestock groups have teamed up to create a Ranchers Relief Fund with a goal of immediately raising at least $1 million, including some six-figure corporate contributions.

While livestock damages are still being tallied, official estimates put storm deaths somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 head of cattle. That's far lower than early estimates of as many as 100,000 animals lost. However, some veterinarians and livestock groups think numbers could mount once producers have an incentive to report.

"Right now any estimate you get is an educated guess," said Jodie Anderson, executive director of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association.

Anderson's father still is missing 10 calves, but they could be on neighbors' land and might eventually be found. On the other hand, she's seen loss reports of anywhere from 5% to 95% of the herd. There are multiple cases of 100 or 200 head walking off a cliff or a river bank and perishing en masse, Anderson said.

Paul Bisson, a Sturgis, S.D., lender who oversees five Wells Fargo banks in the western part of the state, calls damage "hit and miss" but estimates that about 20% of ranchers in the region have experienced significant losses in excess of 10% of their herds.

"You don't have margins in agriculture that can swallow up those losses" without some kind of outside help, the 30-year banking veteran said. "It would take 10 to 15 years for some to get back to their pre-storm positions -- if they survive."

Real damage to South Dakota's cow-calf industry in the freak Oct. 4 blizzard is emotional as well as financial, lenders say, and they are trying to balance serving both.

"Recovery is not just as easy as buying more cows, even if the finances are there," said Farm Credit Services of America CEO Doug Stark. For many ranching families, the genetics of their herds represent generations of work, so family identities and animal lineage are intertwined, adds Stark.

The co-op lender is mobilizing resources to help producers in the 11 counties served by its Rapid City office where it has $170 million of loans to cattle producers. Not all of Farm Credit's 750 cattle customers in that area experienced losses; however, the damage also affected parts of northwest Nebraska and "a touch" of Wyoming, Stark said.

"Most cattlemen in that area were within 30 days of weaning this season's calves and sending them to market, so they lost not just this year's production, they've lost their factory" for future production, Stark said.

To ease some of the burden, all Farm Credit and commercial lenders contacted by DTN are offering forbearance, such as extended maturities on operating loans, which are normally renewed in December and January. Blizzard victims may also qualify for a deferral or re-amortization of principal and interest on their land notes.

"I can't imagine local lenders won't have the same compassion we've articulated toward customers," Stark said.

Consequences for the livestock industry are far more dire than when natural disasters strike corn or soybeans, however. "This is different than a crop loss in Iowa. They don't have crop insurance. They can't just start over like normal next year. It takes two years to get a calf crop back on the ground," Stark said. "Recovery takes time."



What's more, there's no such thing as federal aid to get livestock operators back and running at the moment. All federal livestock assistance programs expired in September 2011. Some Great Plains cattlemen are still carrying losses from herd liquidation due to 2012's severe heat and drought. Montana ranchers also are waiting for reauthorization to qualify for animals lost in the state's extreme wildfire season in 2012.


The livestock losses are "so catastrophic and over such a large area, federal disaster assistance is a must," Bisson said. Lenders can defer payments temporarily, but if someone has lost both this year's calf crop and cows pregnant with next year's production, "two years without income is too much. If you don't have a factory, it doesn't matter what your payments are."

In the past, USDA's long-standing Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) has traditionally compensated natural disaster victims 75% of the average fair market value of animals lost in events such as droughts, wildfires and blizzards, subject to various payment limits and adjusted gross income limits on eligibility. Other programs offered temporary assistance for extra feed costs and low-cost loans for herd rebuilding.

Both versions of the pending House and Senate farm bills include retroactive disaster coverage for livestock producers, but the details have yet to be finalized. Payment limits remain unresolved and the Senate's version compensates LIP payments at 65% of fair market, versus 75% in the House. Lenders hope that means that a $1,800 market animal might qualify for at least $1,000 to $1,300 in aid.

Even if the federal government offers assistance, the timing of its aid could be problematic, cautions Ray Smith, president of First National Bank of Philip, S.D. Often disaster programs compensate producers who lost or liquidated herds a year or two before they receive government checks. "It may come eventually, but right now banks and their customers are going to have to work this out on their own," Smith said. "If it comes, it will be a bonus, but we can't wait for handouts."

Farm Credit's Stark, a long-time crop insurance supporter, thinks livestock producers need that federal relief. "It would be incredibly beneficial if there was some way to recapitalize ranchers and restock these herds without a large financial burden," said Stark. "Lenders can do a lot, but there's no way we can bring those cows back to life."

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Bids Come In for Dog Park Fence - Alton Daily News

Bids Come In for Dog Park Fence - Alton Daily News | ALS animals |
Alton Daily News
Bids Come In for Dog Park Fence
Alton Daily News
There have been plans for over a year to establish a dog park in Alton, and those behind the effort in Alton remind the public that they are moving at a steady pace toward completion.

Via Dean Woolley
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