'Fowl' play - Gilford prize ox may have died due to turkeys in field

GILFORD — The mid-August death of Dale, an 11-year-old 2,800-pound Brown Swiss ox, is an unsolved mystery to Ron and Kathy Salanitro, owners of the Ox-K Farms Discovery Center on Belknap Mountain Road.

"We had him since he was eight hours old, and he was my husband Ron's favorite," said Kathy Salanitro. "They hung out together. Dale would get into trouble then come over to my husband and give Ron three little kisses with the tip of his tongue on Ron's cheek and tilt his head and look at Ron with his big eyes. Dale knew he was instantly out of trouble when he did that."
Salanitro said Dale , one of the four giant oxen at their farm, started to show signs of a mysterious illness in June and was taken to Tufts University Veterinary Hospital for tests in July. Changes in his diet were tried when he came back o the farm but he continued to get worse, to the the point where he was barely able to stand. In August, he was taken back to Tufts, where he died around the middle of the month.
An autopsy failed to reveal a cause and tests showed that he didn't have Lyme disease, the tick-borne illness which can be fatal to livestock.
Salanitro thinks the illness was caused by some kind of noxious plant which was brought to the farm by wild turkeys.
"There were a whole lot of plants we'd never seen before which were growing in the part of a field where the wild turkeys gather. Dale was always the leader of the other oxen, the alpha male, and would have been the first to eat those plants and leave little or nothing for the rest, so it affected him the most. Two of the others did show signs of sickness but nothing like what happened to Dale," she said.
The Salanitros contacted the UNH Cooperative Extension Service, which sent Dot Perkins, a specialist in livestock nutrition, to check out the fields.
"It was absolutely devastating for Kathy and her husband to lose Dale. It was never determined by Tufts what killed the ox. The problems started weeks before I was called and when I examined what was growing in the area where the turkeys gathered I didn't find any noxious plants. But there was lobelia inflata (also known as Indian tobacco or pukeweed) in other parts of the field, and that is a plant which can cause deaths in livestock,'' said Perkins.
She says acidosis, a situation in which there is too much acid in the rumen, a key to the digestive process for ruminants, can cause livestock to weaken and die. When acid tops the 5.6 level, it kills the microbes which break down grass and grain and allow the nutrients to be absorbed. It can also be caused by a diet too heavy in grain or rich grasses.
Perkins says that it is not uncommon for livestock to be sickened by something they've eaten that they shouldn't have and that there doesn't appear to be any increase in the frequency of those kinds of events in recent years.

Salanitro says he she has discovered another problem with her livestock. One of the three remaining oxen has been diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, another tick-borne illness. He is being treated for the illness and showing signs of recovery.

Salanitro says she Dale was never tested for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and that she recently contacted Tufts to see if there were any of his blood samples left which could be tested. "They thought it was unlikely that he had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever because the signs weren't there."

She still believes it is likely that is some noxious plant brought to the farm by the wild turkeys which caused the problem. She and her husband removed eight garbage bags full of the strange plants, along with their roots, from the area frequented by the wild turkeys. "The lobelia inflata doesn't have much of a root system and are easily pulled out of the ground. So an ox would pull it up roots and all and leave no sign that it had been growing there."

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Ouellette noted for outstanding service

LACONIA — Mayor Ed Engler presented the 28th Debra Bieniarz Memorial Award to Dianne Ouellette, who has managed the lunch program at Memorial Middle School for many years, when the City Council met this week.

Surprised and humbled by the honor, Ouellette insisted on sharing the award with her staff. Apart from providing sustenance, Ouellette, who refers to her students as "cherubs," offers cooking lessons and counseling services, often taking children under her wing, and always has a cookie for the many returning to visit with her after leaving middle school.

The award, which recognizes outstanding service to the children and youth of the Lakes Region, honors the memory of Debra Bieniarz, who served the city and its youth with uncommon devotion, dedication and distinction as a member of the Laconia Police Department before her death in 1987.

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The droid you’re looking for

MOULTONBOROUGH — A self-taught drone operator who has started his own business using the unmanned recreational vehicles to create stunning videos from on high says that many of those who will be receiving drones as Christmas presents this year can do themselves a favor by learning about the restrictions placed on their operation, especially when it comes to commercial use.
Charlie Lyle, whose full-time job is working as a lineman for the New Hampshire Electrical Co-op, has started his own business known as NexGen Aerial Imaging and says that he has had to pass many hurdles to obtain the right to use his drones for commercial purposes.
“I had to get a Section 333 exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration in order to operate my drones commercially and even had to become a licensed pilot in order to qualify. There are all sorts of requirements – from having a registered tail number to filing flight plans in advance when you’re within 5 miles of a public airport – that most people don’t know about,’’ said Lyle.
Lyle is concerned that many of those who will be receiving drones as gifts this year have no idea of how to fly them responsibly and may cross the line from having the drone as a hobby to trying to make money with it.
“They may think they can go out and sell videos they make without any problem. But that’s specifically forbidden by FAA regulations,” said Lyle. Even businesses which want to use drones in their line of work need to get a Section 333 exemption and have their drones operated by a licensed pilot. Lyle earned his pilot’s license this last summer by taking lessons at Emerson Aviation at the Laconia Airport.
He noted that large companies like Amazon want to use drones for deliveries, which will raise many more issues to be dealt with.
Drones have become so popular in recent years that the FAA is scrambling to keep up. Concerns have already been raised over privacy issues as well as drones flying near airports and public events.
In February, the agency proposed regulations on the private use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds that would limit use to daylight and require they be kept within the operator’s line of sight. The FAA has also issued temporary licenses and certifications to some companies for commercial purposes on a case-by-case basis.
The Consumer Electronics Association says the vast majority of drones which are being sold are inexpensive hobby-style drones with limited range and capabilities and cost $150 or less.. Other more complicated models sell for over $1,000.
Lyle has three drones, a DJI Inspire with advanced capabilities as well as two smaller DJI Phantom, which he does the bulk of his work with with. They have a gimbal, a gyro-stabilized mount, which keeps the high-definition SLR camera that they carry perfectly balanced so that there is no wobbling for the video .
He also uses a hand-held DJI Ronin 3X, which costs around $3,000, for other applications and has already created videos for Miracle Farms in Moultonborough and Stevens Landscaping and says that he can perform a number of other services, ranging from weddings to roof inspections.
Lyle got the idea of using drones after having spent hours walking five miles along a power line to see what had happened to cause an outage.
“We couldn’t put it back on line until we had checked everything out. If I had a drone, I could have checked out the line a lot quicker and saved a lot of effort.”
Since then he’s been learning about drones, how to use them and how to edit the final product caught on camera.
“They’re really amazing,” he said. “They can hover in the same spot being held in place by GPS technology and are programmed to take the same route back to where they took off if something goes wrong with their communication system.”
Lyle says that he would like to see his company develop a concentration on utility inspections and is looking to establish himself in the local market as a reasonably priced alternative to what he sees as a future wave of businesses competing for customers with their drone services.

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