How do you make a goat smile? Waikato scientists intend to find out in bid to better understand farm animals

Goats are being put through their paces at AgResearch's Ruakura campus in a bid to find a better way to measure farm animals moods and personalities.

The goats have heartbeat monitors attached, before being put through a series of tests, ranging from a bucket of leaves, to an unexpected shower.

A group of scientists closely watch on, documenting their every move and expression.

"We are looking to address a growing consumer interest in positive animal welfare. People want to know that the... animals have had a good life," one researcher told 1 NEWS.

"We're creating situations that we think will put the goat in a positive state of mind or a negative state of mind, and then we're doing a thing like giving it a choice where it has to turn left or right to get to an object it really desires.

"We think that, that decision will take longer in goats that are in a negative state of mind," said another.

Slow motion and infrared cameras are used to pick up signals otherwise hidden from view. 

"So just a mild little twitch of the lips, or their ears slightly shifting, and that's something that you and I actually do.

"We're starting to be able to pick that up with goats. So the idea is that once we perfect that technology, we might be able to actually to that with other animals as well."

AgResearch scientists are studying goats to find better ways to measure an animal’s happiness. Source: 1 NEWS



Strong growth expected in GDP figures to be released this morning

All eyes are on the country's financial performance this morning with economists expecting strong growth.

The latest GDP figures are due for release, with ASB tipping they'll show strong quarterly growth.

Westpac have forecast the annual rate of growth to hold steady at 2.7 percent and both banks are picking a 0.9 per cent rise for the quarter.

Eyes are on the country’s financial performance this morning, with ASB tipping strong quarterly growth. Source: Breakfast

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Aussie scientists make genetic breakthrough in battle to eradicate cane toads

Australia's self-inflicted cane toad invasion may soon be over after scientists cracked the deadly amphibian's DNA code.

International scientists working with UNSW Sydney, the University of Sydney and Deakin University have unlocked more than 90 per cent of the invasive amphibian's genome.

The poisonous toads have wreaked havoc on northern quolls, freshwater crocodiles and several species of native lizards and snakes since their introduction in Queensland in 1935 to help control cane beetles.

Millions of toads now occupy more than 1.2 million square kilometres of Australia following a seemingly unstoppable march across the top end.

Virologist Professor Peter White says despite the pesky cane toad's iconic status there were major gaps in the scientific community's understanding of its genetics.

"But we've now got the blueprint as well as the plans to the factory," he told AAP.

Already Mr White's team has used the toad's genetics to find three new viruses that with further work may become biocontrols to stem the toad's march across the country.

"We're now going to see how prevalent they are in the population, going all the way back to South America, and then we'll see how pathogenic they are," he said.

"Hopefully, they're very pathogenic, and then we can begin testing them."

Mr White said the team needed to be sure any biocontrol created won't affect native amphibians.

"We don't want to introduce anything that's going to kill frogs or newts, it has to be cane toad specific," he said.

Viruses have previously been successfully used to control the European rabbit population.

The findings were published in the academic journal GigaScience.

SYDNEY, NSW - AUGUST 09:  A Cane Toad is exhibited at Taronga Zoo August 9, 2005 in Sydney, Australia. The Cane Toad, which is poisonous, is reportedly being blamed for the deaths of a number of Australia's most dangerous predator, the Salt Water Crocodile. A three-metre long crocodile was found dead by a local crocodile tour operator last week in the Adelaide River, with the tourism operator suspecting the reptile had been poisoned after eating a toad. The director of Wildlife Management International, Graeme Webb, says he suspects that up to "20 to 30 per cent" of fresh water crocodiles will be lost to cane toads in this way.    (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Cane toad Source: Getty

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'Angel' takes disabled friend on 'wacky' world adventures and is rewarded with $10,000

A young woman who has taken a teenager with cerebral palsy on adventures around the world, donated a kidney to an old school friend and helped many others has been rewarded with $10,000 for more adventures and to look after herself for a change.

Leah Stewart, who's 23, is the winner of this week's ASB Good as Gold award on TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

Donating an organ and helping others were on a bucket list Leah wrote when she was just 16, and she's doing a pretty good job of ticking them off. 

Nineteen-year-old Alicia Kapa - Leah's best friend - and Mum Joanna Kapa have really appreciated Leah's help.

Joanna explained that Alicia wasn't breathing when she was born and has cerebral palsy as a result of that lack of oxygen. 

"She loves adventure and her and her best mate Leah have travelled around the world and done all sports of crazy, crazy things," Joanna said.

These have included a cruise in the Bahamas, adventures in New York and bungy jumping.

Joanna said it means a huge amount to her that Alicia is "getting out and doing stuff that everybody at her age should be able to do, that she's safe, she hasn't got her mother hanging around with her, which is a big thing".

Alicia agreed with that last point.

She's everything that you would think when you think of an angel - Joanna Kapa

Joanna said Leah is "everything that you would think when you think of an angel".

While Alicia declared: "Leah is an amazing friend to me."

Leah and Alicia's adventures have been documented in videos on their own YouTube channel called 'Wheely Wacky Adventures".

Reporter Sam Wallace surprised Leah in suburban Auckland telling her ASB want to give her $5000 for some more Wheely Wacky Adventures, and $5000 "for you to look after yourself because you never do it".

"That sounds amazing," said a stunned Leah as she hugged Alicia in her wheelchair out on the street, surrounded by friends.

Leah admitted she has helped "a few" people and said just over a year ago she donated her left kidney to a friend from high school and "thinks" she saved her life.

The win will help with a trip she and Alicia booked themselves next week because they were missing each other. 

"And the whole thing went on my credit card because I had no money in the bank. And I knew I had some big student loans coming up. I was planning on calling the IRD on Monday and sorting out one of them," Leah said.

This giving friend can relax a little now - until the next wacky adventure.

Leah Stewart wrote her list when she was 16 and she's doing a pretty good job of ticking them off. Source: Seven Sharp


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Auckland boy who lost his dad to cancer thriving through programme helping young rugby players

A programme in West Auckland is coaching rugby coaches to help young players develop life skills to deal with big challenges.

Jonesy's Youth Foundation was set up by Michael Jones - who shares his name with the legendary former All Black.

"The idea came to me through Massey Rugby Club. There was a boy who's mum got killed about 14 years ago, and for some reason it stuck with me all that time, 'what did the rugby club do to help him after the situation?'" Jones told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp. 

Through the foundation, men run courses for coaches of junior rugby players.

"What the courses will do is it'll teach the coach to be able to integrate rugby skills with character development and life skill development," Mr Jones said."

It's about developing the young players "as people first," he said.

Ben Allen - or 'Pies' as he's known coaches schoolboy rugby player Connor O'Donnell. Connor's Dad, Shaun, died four years ago from cancer.

Mr Allen said he teaches Connor, "things like communication and talking to his teammates and encouraging each other which are all important traits that you need in life".

"I'll never replace Shaun. He was an amazing Dad and and an amazing guy."

He's really good and he's helped me with confidence and things like that. - Junior rugby player Connor O'Donnell

Connor reckons 'Pies' is an amazing coach.

"He's really good and he's helped me with confidence and things like that."

Connor's Mum, Helen O'Donnell, said she promised his Dad before he died that she'd keep his love and passion for rugby going, but struggled with how she'd do that. She said Shaun would be "absolutely over the moon" that she's been able to keep that promise.  

The foundation has had some high-profile helping hands like former All Black Josh Kronfeld. 

Kronfeld said the coaches help the players with, "how to deal with pressure, how to deal with the bad moments, and loss, all those things".

Jonesy - who's also a Dad - says the foundation is there for for the long haul.

"We're here forever. We want to see him develop and grow [into] that 18 and 20-year-old when he gets a job."

Jonesy's Youth Foundation is having a Gala Dinner this Saturday. If you want tickets, the details are on Seven Sharp's Facebook page.


Jonesy's Youth Foundation is there for Connor O'Donnell, and others, in their time of need. Source: Seven Sharp