By Brooks Hays
Scientists have known for years that the milk production of cows goes up when the animals listen to music. Farmers have known this too. But deciding exactly what songs to play remains an imprecise science.
“I am not sure why there is not more research on the cow-music-milk production relationship,” says Dr. Leanne Alworth recently told Modern Farmer. Alworth is the assistant director of University Research Animal Resources at the University of Georgia’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “Perhaps because most researchers interested in animal welfare are not looking at production parameters specifically?”
But Alworth says slower and more soothing rhythms are likely to work best. At least that's what a 2001 study by two psychologists at the University of Leicester suggested. That study showed that cows that listened to song like "Everybody Hurts" by REM and Simon & Garfunkel’s "Bridge Over Troubled Water" produced three percent more milk than a control group. Cows that listened to more sonically abrasive tunes like rap and techno songs showed no increase in milk production.
Today, most dairy farms feature country music or Latin music. But Alworth says easy listening or new age might work better.
When a cow is stressed, the release of oxytocin is slowed -- the hormone is central to the milking process. The insides of an industrial dairy facility can be hectic and loud, a potentially stressful situation for a cow. So it makes sense that music might distract the cows and help them stay calm.
The magazine Modern Farmer has offered some musical inspiration for farmers looking to maximize their cows' milk output. They suggests songs like "Perfect Day," by Lou Reed for the more modern rock-n-roll approach, and scores like "Concerto for Flute and Harp in D Major" by Mozart for the more classically-inclined cattle.