Stressed cows? Time to get the flute and sitar out, study reveals

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/Jamie Garbutt
Image: Getty/Jamie Garbutt

Related tags Milk Dairy Cow’s milk

Milking parlours may soon sound more like massage parlours after researchers found that exposing cows to Indian classical music reduced stress and had a ‘significant effect in milking time and milking speed’.

Previous studies have shown that music can help enrich the living environment of livestock, helping to alleviate the adverse effects of noise, reduce stress and improve yields. But the right selection of genre, intensity and tempo is key. Anything too loud and too fast, say heavy metal, should be avoided as it can negatively affect the health of livestock. So what choice is best?

Fresh research suggests breeders and producers should get familiar with the calming sounds of Indian instrumental music.

Researchers in India exposed two groups of dairy cows to a recorded tape of flute and sitar played at a moderate 40-60 (dB) decibel intensity 10 minutes before the start of milking. This continued until completion of milking. A third control group was not played any music. 

The results revealed a non-significant difference in milk yield, rectal temperature, respiration rate, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) hormones. However, there was a significant (p < 0.05) difference in milking time, milking speed, cortisol hormones and behavioural parameters such as milk let-down in the animals exposed to music compared to the control group. Thus, the results ‘have significant implications relating to the behavioural fitness and welfare of dairy animals and reducing residual milk’.

“When the cows are relaxed the physiology of the cow is in optimum condition and they will produce milk as per animal’s real genetic ability of production,”​ explained Sanjiv Kochewad ICAR-National Institute for Abiotic Stress Management.

As this area of research was new, he told FoodNavigator, very little information is available regarding exposing cows to music, he added. “We tried to find out the effect of music on production and behaviour of cows by using the research methodologies reported by earlier researchers and also developed some of them.

"We observed that slow music in yamen raga at 40-60 decibels intensity reduces the stress and improves the behaviour of cows. All types of music will not have same effect.

“There was non-significant difference in milk yield. It was expected that music would increase the yield, but the milk yield is influenced by various factors and the effect of music might be far lower as compared to the other factors such as physical and nutritional.

“This paper will help the researchers to conduct further studies in this area, which will provide more interesting facts or observations in animal behaviour studies.”


Effect of milking environment enrichment through music on production performance and behaviour in cattle

DOI: 10.1007/s11250-022-03217-4

Related topics Science Dairy Dairy-based ingredients

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