ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) — Past research has shown that cows produce more milk when stress is reduced by soothing music, but a new report suggests a precise playlist for dairy farmers looking to boost production.
The “Milking to Music” report from global agriculture medium Modern Farmer suggests some slow-jam songs to test increased milk production. The playlist includes songs ranging from Lou Reed to Mozart.
The report connects a 2001 University of Leicester study in the U.K. found that “calming music can improve milk yield, probably because it reduces stress, researcher Dr. Adrian North told the BBC at the time. “A lot of farmers seem to think it works. In essence, we’re following their lead.”
The Leicester study was conducted with 1,000-member herds of Friesian cattle that were exposed to fast, slow and no music for 12-hours each day over the course of nine weeks. Data showed that each cow’s milk yield rose by 3 percent (1.54 pints) each day with slow – rather than fast – music.
“We found that slow music improved milk yields perhaps because it relaxes the cows in much the same way as it relaxes humans,” said the researchers.
“I am not sure why there is not more research on the cow-music-milk production relationship,” Dr. Leanne Alworth, assistant director of University Research Animal Resources at the University of Georgia’s School of Veterinary Medicine, told Modern Farmer. “Perhaps because most researchers interested in animal welfare are not looking at production parameters specifically?”
Modern Farmer included the following recommendations for testing music with cows: “Everybody Hurts” by REM, “What a Difference A Day Makes” by Aretha Franklin, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel and “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed.
If classical music is the preferred “moo-sical” choice for the herd: Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” and “Symphony No. 5” are listed with Mozart’s “Concerto for Flute and Harp in D Major” and “Symphony No. 7” by Haydn.
On the other hand, the Leicester study found that Y2K Euro club music and other faster songs failed to produce positive production results.
Some dairy farmers agree that calming the cows can relieve some of the stress necessary for more milk production, especially considering the loud, machine noise environments on dairy farms. Stress has been found to limit the release of oxytocin, which is a critical hormone for the milk-releasing process.
“From a sensory perspective, loud, distracting noise can be one of the greatest stressors to dairy cows and their well-being,” says Juan Velez, executive vice president of Aurora Organic Farms, a large dairy corporation centered in Boulder, Colorado, told Modern Farmer. “In terms of music, in my 30 years working with dairy cows, I have found that music can be beneficial to the well-being of the cows, but it must be consistent and calming.”
“If the music volume is kept constant and the style of music is consistent, and everything else in that parlor is well managed and maintained, music can have a positive effect on milk let down.”