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When it’s cold, cows put on winter coats

Stock photo/Thinkstock

This week, Collected Wisdom is heading out into the wintery fields to tend to the horses and cattle.

But first we're putting on our thermal underwear, fur-lined boots, insulated pants, down-filled jacket with hood …

The question

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Judy Cameron of Ottawa wonders how cows and horses survive outside in an Ontario winter.

The answer

"Horses and cows are grazing animals that, for the most part, are continually eating, whether nibbling grass or being fed a regular diet of hay," writes K. McCurdy of St. Thomas, Ont.

"This food energy is converted to body heat."

Another important factor, he says, is their winter coats, which start growing after the summer solstice, as daylight gradually lessens.

"The style gets boring, but it's oh so functional," he adds.

Travis Gamble of Regina says they also need shelter from those wintery winds.

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Mr. Gamble has had experience with cows and points out that if you bring one into a warm barn after it has been outside for most of the winter, "it can get sick from the heat, as it has adapted to outdoor life."

At large cattle shows held in winter such as the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto or the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, he says, "beef cattle that have been in the show barns all day must be taken outside and tied up for the night so they don't overheat and become ill."

However, dairy cattle are often left in the barns as that is where they spend most of their time, so they have not had to develop winter coats.

It's the same with horses, Mr. Gamble writes. "Those that spend most of their time out in a pasture will grow a thick coat. Those that are kept stabled are more susceptible to cold, and you will often see them covered in a blanket when they are outdoors as they haven't grown the same thick coat."

The question

A gasoline-powered vehicle uses an alternator system that keeps the vehicle's battery powered, writes George Surdykowski of Toronto. So why can't an electric car charge itself as it runs?

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The answer

It's because such a car would be against the law. The law of conservation of energy, to be exact. That's the one that says energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another.

In Mr. Surdykowski's scenario, writes Michael Moore of Toronto, you'd use the thrust of the car's electric motor to run the alternator to charge the batteries. Meanwhile, the electric motor would also get its power from the batteries.

"In an ideal world (without electrical resistance, mechanical friction or wind drag), you could do that forever. But in the real world, some of the circulating electrical energy would be turned into heat (or otherwise wasted) at every stage and the system would run itself down."


Tony Kicinski of Markham, Ont., says some computer-security experts recommend that users change their passwords every month or so to foil hackers. But surely a hacker would spend only a matter of hours, not months, trying to crack a password. Since you can't change your password every few hours, why change it at all?

Farley Helfant of Toronto loves those old wooden water towers atop the buildings of New York. How have they survived? "As charming as they are, they can't be very efficient. And what about water quality? Should I stick to Perrier on my next visit?"

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