Dairy cows produce more milk when listening to REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ or Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ than when subjected to Wonderstuff’s ‘Size of a Cow’ or the Beatles’ ‘Back In The USSR’ a new study by music research specialists at the University of Leicester has found.
The 1,000 strong herds of Holstein Friesian cattle preferred listening to no music at all than being exposed to Mud’s ‘Tigerfeet’ or Bananarama’s ‘Venus’, the psychologists discovered.
Their milk yield rose by 0.73 litres per cow per day when they were exposed to slow music rather than fast music. The results revealed a three per cent increase in output when slow rather than fast music was played.
Scientists Adrian North and Liam MacKenzie from the Music Research Group at the University of Leicester School of Psychology exposed cattle to fast, slow and no music at all over a nine-week period.
The trials, at LCAH Dairies in Lincolnshire and Bishop Burton Agricultural College in Humberside, involved playing music to the cows for 12 hours a day, from 5am to 5pm.
Dr North said: "These results are statistically significant – they reveal that milk yields could be increased by 3% simply by playing certain types of music to the cows.
"We have found that cows respond to a pleasant auditory environment by producing more milk. It seems that slow music had the effect of alleviating stress and relaxing the animals which resulted in greater milk yields."
Liam MacKenzie said that the research was an extension of the School’s ongoing study into the effects of music on aspects of human behaviour: "Most theories of music preferences are based on humans.
"We were testing whether the theories, which had been proven with humans, would also hold true of other animals. We found that slow music improved milk yields perhaps because it relaxes the cows in much the same way as it relaxes humans."
Liam MacKenzie added that there was anecdotal evidence of some farmers already playing music to cows, and there was also evidence to suggest that playing certain music reduced stress within poultry.
Music technology company TTL Music of Nottingham fitted out the dairy herd enclosures with the latest acoustics and provided the selection of music in two categories – fast and slow.
The psychologists are seeking more funding to determine:
Which type of instrumental sounds most influence milk yields,
Whether music can help other species,
Whether the quality of audio reproduction affects productivity,
Whether the manipulation of factors other than tempo affects productivity.
University of Leicester. June 2001.