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6 of the strangest farm animals and produce you will ever see

A Silkworm farmer and his worms
A Silkworm farmer in India image via

It’s the time of year for new life and switching on one of our farming kits ready for lambing and foaling season. There’s all manner of preparation and activity happening on British farms right now so we thought we’d take a look at some farms and animals you may not be so familiar with.

There are a whole host of busy farmers out there getting very unusual produce from animals you would never even think of farming, let’s take a look at a few.

Elephants

Elephants are farmed on the Black Ivory farm in Thailand, not for their ivory or any type of hunting but for their dung. Yes, the Black Ivory Coffee Elephant dung farm collects the droppings of these wise and gentle beasts as they mosey around the farm eating coffee beans. The theory is that the elephants process the coffee beans by digesting them which removes bitterness and improves flavour. However if you are tempted to try this particular roast I am sorry to inform you that it is probably the most expensive coffee in the world costing upwards of $1,100 a kilo (around $50 a cup) and is only available at four select resorts in the whole world. Bad luck there.

Myotonic Goats

Thanks to YouTube many of us are now familiar with the Myotonic or “fainting” goat. These little chaps have a strange mechanism in their bodies causing all their muscles to freeze up for around ten seconds when panicked meaning they topple over in rather an humourous fashion. This amusing quirk is probably the main reason they are farmed now, for our amusement, but originally they were farmed for a rather more cruel purpose. When farmers had large flocks of animals in fields and a predator would approach the fainting goats would get scared and collapse meaning they were easy prey for the predator and the rest of the flock could escape. Using the poor little fellas for a decoy is very cruel indeed and I am glad to say nowadays we farm them just for slapstick comedy purposes.

Swiftlet Birds

Mainly found in the tropic and sub-tropic regions of the world this small bird produces what is probably the most highly priced farm produce in the world; it’s nests. The nests are believed, particularly in Chinese culture, to have medicinal qualities able to improve many health issues from one’s digestion to singing voice. Swiftlet birds are farmed in huge caves where they make hundreds of nests (each generally taking around 35 days) which are then harvested. The main use of the nests is bird’s nest soup, a prized delicacy where the nest is dissolved in hot water and eaten, I have to say it doesn’t appeal to me too much but people have been eating it for 400 years so perhaps they are onto something. My singing voice could probably use some help too.

A huge mass of Swiftlet Bird nests
A huge mass of Swiftlet Bird nests image via

Leeches

Easily the least appealing farm animal on our list today but the humble leech has doing it’s bit to help mankind since the medieval times. Of course we don’t prescribe them in quite the way we used to, but a farm in Swansea is still producing 60,000 leeches a year for medical research in Europe. At one point owning your own leech was seen as aspirational and anyone who had to borrow one from a doctor would be seen as being of a lower status. While they have waned in popularity these days the industry of producing them for laboratory research and experiments is worth well over a million pounds a year and they seem to be still helping us out with our medicine all these years later.

Scientists at work in a Leech Farm
Scientists at work in the Biopharm Leech Farm in Swansea. image via

Virus Chickens

Arguably the least appetising edible creature on our list we come now to; Virus Chickens. These particular Chickens are specially farmed for use in laboratory research to learn about diseases such as influenza and their accompanying vaccines. The chickens have their eggs propagated with viruses at the embryonic stage allowing scientists to monitor the viruses growth and progress as they eggs grow. This then allows the scientists to extract vaccines from these eggs which help us all to stay healthy. Thanks Virus Chickens.

Spider Goats

Not in fact a new animal superhero, the Spider Goat is a genetically modified goat which has had Spider genes added to it meaning it’s milk contains the proteins to produce spider silk (it does not unfortunately have 8 legs). Definitely the strangest animal on our list the Spider Goat’s milk can be spun into a material ten times stronger than steel which is used for experimental scientific purposes. Perhaps even more amazing than the goat itself is the fact that it’s silk has been successfully combined with human skin in an experiment to make bullet proof human skin. If, like me you find this hard to believe you can find details here

So there we go, I feel like we’ve all learned something today. If this has inspired you or you have unusual farming ideas of your own, one of our farming camera kits will help you keep an eye on your critters. After all the last thing we want is escaped Elephants or Spider Goats roaming around.

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