Feb 10, 2009

Love your neighbor as your cow

by Rachel Barker and Tim Mattingly

Cows are not just something we can milk or eat whenever we so choose. Well … actually, we can. But before we sink our incisors into a medium-rare masterpiece, consider this — cows have feelings, too. A new study released in England discovered that a “more affectionate” treatment of cows, such as giving them names, increases their milk productivity, according to the USA Today article, “Naming cows isn’t udder nonsense.”

Dr. Catherine Douglas from the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University conducted the cow psychology study. She found that a single cow produced an average of 2,000 gallons of milk per year, however “happy” cows displayed an increased output of more than 68 gallons annually, reports the USA Today article.
“I think farmers have always thought that a good relationship with cows helped, but I don’t think they knew how,” said Douglas in the USA Today article.

Douglas’s research was conducted as part of her Ph.D. thesis on “the effects of positive treatment of cattle,” according to USA Today. Her findings lend scientific support to the long-time practice of dairy farmers where they build a personal relationship with their cows.

“[Farmers] chat to [cows] in passing, not just roll in on a tractor every now and then,” Douglas said in the USA Today article. “They walk amongst the cows and speak with them.”

Some farmers, such as Jan Bansen of Portland, Ore. not only names their cows but also gets to know them as individuals, reports USA Today. Each cow has its own personality, explains Bansen in the article. Whether the creatures are temperamental, playful or mischievous, knowing and treating them as individuals is an important aspect of dairy farming.

However, the correlation between naming a cow and higher milk production is purely scientific. Douglas explains that if a cow is uncomfortable it will become stressed, causing a milk-inhibiting chemical, coritsol, to be released into its body, according to USA Today.
Douglas also mentioned how the results of the study were very similar to the effects of human interactions.

“Just as people respond better to personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention,” Douglas said in a Live Science article.

The way of the dairy farmer demonstrates how feeling loved gives new meaning to our lives. Unfortunately, many of us neglect to demonstrate affection for the ones that matter most, causing our relationships to suffer.

Contact Rachel Barker at

Contact Tim Mattingly at

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