A Musically Satisfied Cow Is A Productive Cow

The Ingenues, an all-girl band and vaudeville act, serenade the cows in the University of Wisconsin, Madison's dairy barn in 1930. The show was apparently part of an experiment to see whether the soothing strains of music boosted the cows' milk production. Angus B. McVicar/Wisconsin Historical Society

The Ingenues, an all-girl band and vaudeville act, serenade the cows in the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s dairy barn in 1930. The show was apparently part of an experiment to see whether the soothing strains of music boosted the cows’ milk production. Angus B. McVicar/Wisconsin Historical Society

It is not difficult to believe, but it is funny. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this story about the importance of animal happiness, an idea we can all, from carnivore to vegan all everyone in between, agree is good (the video below is at least as compelling as the scientific references):

When it’s time to buckle down and focus, plenty of office workers will put on headphones to help them drown out distractions and be more productive. But can music also help dairy cows get down to business?

Some dairy farmers have long suspected that’s the case. It’s not unheard of for farmers to play relaxing jams for their herds to boost milk production, as the folks at Modern Farmer recently reported.

A tantalizing 2001 study out of the University of Leicester in the U.K. appeared to lend credence to those claims. It found that milk production went up by as much as 3 percent when cows listened to slow tunes like R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water,” rather than faster songs.

Less popular among these bovine beat lovers? The Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” Jamiroquai’s “Space Cowboy,” and Supergrass’ “Pumping on Your Stereo.” (Yes, it was most definitely 2001.) Apparently, slow songs with less than 100 beats per minute hit the milking sweet spot, the researchers found.

“It seems that slow music had the effect of alleviating stress and relaxing the animals, which resulted in greater milk yields,” Adrian North, a music researcher and one of two psychologists who conducted the study, said at the time the findings were released.

We loved the idea of Bessie and friends as music aficionados. Alas, the science of music and milking remains sketchy at best, says Anne Marie de Passille, a Canadian research scientist who studies cow behavior and welfare. (She recently filled us in on another fascinating aspect of the inner lives of cows: “jumping for joy.”)

De Passille says no one has replicated the results of that 2001 study — in part because setting up and repeating the kind of controlled, large-scale experiments needed to really nail down the science would be pretty expensive. So for now, the research remains inconclusive.

“We don’t really know what the relationship is” between cows’ musical preferences and milk production, she tells us…

Read the whole article and see the video below here.

A herd of French cows gets a jazz serenade from the band New Hot 5.

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