Sure, excellent diet from pasture and plenty of time outdoors are the rock solid foundation to excellent animal care, but there’s a lot more to it than that. We want to share a few tricks of the organic farming trade that our farmer-owners use to keep their animals in peak condition and “on the sunny side” of life.
Music Soothes the Savage…er…Gentle Beasts
Not that cows are savage beasts, but remember the story of Frankenstein’s monster? When the old, blind guy plays a beautiful melody on the violin, the monster turns into a blubbering baby. That music “soothes the savage beast” is an old, old adage, and this is why you will rarely walk into a milking parlor where there is no music.
According to Organic Valley farmers in the Midwest, polka is the music of choice for their cows, hands-down! However, country music is a red-hot second favorite of the bovine crowd.
Back east, apparently, the cows are a little more counter-culture. Vermont Organic Valley dairy farmer Tyler Webb says, “People joke that organic cows only listen to NPR. They’ve actually done studies at University of Vermont about what music cows seem to like best, and they concluded it’s country music. Not our cows! Our cows love Taj Mahal!”
On the other hand, the Jersey ladies at the Holter family farm in Maryland love jazz!
When cows are stressed out – which can happen when they’re crowded, stuck indoors, and eating unhealthy food – then they get sick. (Sound familiar? Just like people!) Stress also inhibits the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone that causes them to release their milk. This means if they’re stressed, they give less milk, or it may take longer for them to be milked (which can stress them out further). One study from England discovered that calming music caused the cows to give up to 3 percent more milk!
So we work hard to prevent cows from getting sick in the first place. A huge part of that is giving them a low-stress environment. When they come in for milking, they get a bag of their favorite feed, and the soothing music – whatever the genre – can help reduce stress, if they’re experiencing any. Cows also seem to enjoy hearing their farmer’s voice, so many of our farmers will talk to their “girls” as they go about their work.
Whether they prefer polka, country or jazz, we love our cows.
More secrets to come! Read more about how Organic Valley farmers keep their animals happy and healthy in our Animal Whisperer series — some of it is simple common sense, and some are downright quirky!