Want more milk, just give your cow a name

January 28th, 2009 - 5:41 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 28 (IANS) By just giving a cow a name and treating it as an individual, farmers can increase their milk yield substantially. The study by Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University found that when each cow was called by name on farms, the overall milk yield was higher than where they were herded in a group.

“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,” explained Douglas, who works at the Newcastle School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

“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.”

Dairy farmer Dennis Gibb, who co-owns Eachwick Red House Farm outside Newcastle, Northern England, with his brother Richard, says he believes treating every cow as an individual is “vitally important.”

“They aren’t just our livelihood - they’re part of the family,” said Dennis. “We love our cows here at Eachwick and every one of them has a name. Collectively we refer to them as ‘our ladies’ but we know every one of them and each one has her own personality.”

Douglas and Rowlinson questioned 516 British dairy farmers about how they believed humans could affect the productivity, behaviour and welfare of dairy cattle.

Almost half or 46 percent said the cows on their farm were called by name. Those that called their cows by name had a 258 litre higher milk yield than those who did not, said a Newcastle release.

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

These findings were published online in Anthrozoos.

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