This is one of the great stories from Modern Farmer magazine. If you have a natural affinity for music, or enjoy hearing cows milking, then you’re going to love this story.
Milk production of cows goes up when the animals listen to music
We proudly say that our milk production goes up when we listen to classical music, and that’s true. But a recent study shows just how important it is: cows are more productive when they hear music.
Of course, there are many factors at play here. Modern Farmer has also found that cow’s milk production goes up by 20% when they are listening to classical music.
We don’t know if the effect is due to the music itself or some sort of association with it, but at least one study has shown that cows experience a reduction in stress when they listen to musical instruments in their barn. Listen to this excerpt from our humble blog post on the topic:
If you don’t like classical music (and I think most people do) then you might want to try this out for yourself for a few days. Music can be thought of as providing positive reinforcement for desired behaviors (e.g., cows being milked). This has been observed in other species, including humans and laboratory animals (e.g., subjects who listened to recordings of naturalistic vocalizations while having avoidant anxiety-related responses). In some cases, scientists have observed this effect using operant conditioning techniques; in others using behavioral experiments (e.g., paper-plate preference).
The music, however, must be upbeat
Do you like music? Do you like classical music? Or perhaps, would you rather have your cows listen to something that has a lot of loud trumpets and lots of loud strings? Well, the answer may be “no” to one and “yes” to the other. But in an era when most home entertainment systems have built-in speakers that drown out even the best recorded music, well, it’s probably a good idea not to turn your cattle into regular listening devices.
Today we are going to talk about two ways of pumping some tunes into your cows. Both are simple:
• Plop a radio in their enclosure, and set the volume to full blast.
• Play music on a speaker connected by wire or Bluetooth to your phone or PC.
Both do their jobs well — but they do them in different ways. The first method is more common among commercial operations; the second is more common among hobbyists. Both are equally effective at getting your cows listening to classical music (or whatever musical fare you choose) — but which one is right for you depends on what kind of operation you have in mind.
Modern Farmer magazine has the playlist
It is said that milk production increases when cows listen to music and Modern Farmer magazine has just the playlist. We have a few reasons to be skeptical of this claim.
First, we can’t rule out that the increase in milk production observed during the broadcast of classical music is due to animal learning or habit (as opposed to human skill). For example, cows might learn that classical music is associated with calving and pass on this association to their offspring. Once they do, milk production may increase.
Second, if it were true that sound changes the behavior of cows, we would expect that sound levels should change as well (which they don’t). It’s possible that those changes are due to other factors that aren’t related directly to sound (such as temperature changes) or other factors unrelated to sound itself (such as cows being moved around by humans).
Third, we have no way of knowing whether any behavior change is due specifically to listening to music or just general cow behavior. We couldn’t even say whether increases in milk production observed during broadcasting of classical music could be attributed only to increased cow health or whether people are also playing an important role in this process.
Fourth, if something does change their behavior from what it was before the broadcast, we would expect the listener reaction time (the amount of time it takes for a person who hears an audio message for the first time) should not change even after hours of listening (it’s likely longer than hours but probably less than days). This means we can’t use “hours” as a measure here: if someone spent 12 hours listening and then another 12 hours playing around with his iPhone before moving on he should not experience any difference in his reaction time at all. Instead, we need “minutes” because there isn’t really any way for us to measure anything more specific than this here.
We think hearing classical music makes cows a lot more productive and it may have some effect on their reaction times too — but we don’t know enough about these matters either. If you want more details you can read our previous post on why you shouldn’t trust results like this one which had exactly this result:
TorrentFreak reports that the ripples of milk production are increasing across the audio spectrum in a huge way. Why? It’s because the media goes to great lengths to make sure the people who drink it get what they want, and for good reason.