Changing Planet

Cows With Names Yield More Milk, British Study Finds

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NGS photo by Volkmar K. Wentzel

A cow with a name produces more milk than one without, scientists at Newcastle University in the UK say.

“By giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual, farmers can increase their annual milk yield by almost 500 pints,” said the university’s Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson in a news release.

Their study, published online in the academic journal Anthrozoos, found that on farms where each cow was called by her name the overall milk yield was higher than on farms where the cattle were herded as a group, the release said.

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“Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention,” explains Douglas, who works in the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University.

“What our study shows is what many good, caring farmers have long since believed.

“By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal’s welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production.”

NGS photo by Volkmar K. Wentzel

Douglas and Rowlinson surveyed 516 UK dairy farmers about how they believed humans could affect the productivity, behavior and welfare of dairy cattle.

Almost half — 46 per cent — said the cows on their farm were called by name. Those that called their cows by name had a 68-gallon (258-liter) higher milk yield than those who did not, the university said.

“Sixty six per cent of farmers said they knew all the cows in the herd and 48 per cent agreed that positive human contact was more likely to produce cows with a good milking temperament. Almost 10 per cent said that a fear of humans resulted in a poor milking temperament,” the university statement said.

“Our data suggests that on the whole UK dairy farmers regard their cows as intelligent beings capable of experiencing a range of emotions,” Douglas said.

“Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name can — at no extra cost to the farmer — also significantly increase milk production.”

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NGS photo by George F. Mobley

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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