Want More Milk? Get Moo-ed Music!


It’s not surprising that there is a link between milk production and music.  Music and word production are already linked for me as I firmly believe that writer’s block and silent rooms may be correlated.  It is therefore quite natural to accept that flowing music and flowing milk may be linked as well.

What’s Behind Better Milk Production?

Turning the radio on is one of the first things I do every morning before facing my computer keyboard.  No, I don’t select to the news murder and mayhem. And neither heavy metal nor hard rock inspires my pen. For me, the choices usually rotate between “Easy Listening” “Jukebox Oldies” or “Nature”. My goal is to have a non-intrusive background. Unfortunately sometimes when I select nature sounds, I find myself jumping up to see what’s leaking or to get a fly swatter.  When it comes to finding music to produce by, research is proving that it can be productive in the milking parlor too!

Research and Rhythm get Milk and Money Rolling

Researchers are like all of us who hope to have daily work that inspires them and that is enjoyable to carry out.  Both goals were met for those investigators who proposed delving into the effects of music on milk production. In the end, the only surprising part was that they found their hypothesis accepted by those responsible for higher learning. … and, even better, the research financing was provided.  When money enters the mix … musical or otherwise … it makes any undertaking much more rewarding for all of us. That’s not science.  That’s profitability.

Keep Calm and Turn the Spa Music On.

Stress can inhibit the release of oxytocin — a hormone key to the milk-releasing process. As long ago as 2001 studies showed that musical timing is everything when it comes to having an effect on milk production in dairy cows. Cows have been proven, like some of us humans who must multitask while listening, to be more productive depending on the tempo of the music.  In one study, slow tempo music increased milk production by 3 percent. In contrast, harsher, faster music had no effect on milk production. Not surprisingly the conclusions drawn from this physiologic response is that faster music increases cow’s stress level. Increased stress has been repeatedly shown to negatively impact milk production.  Perceptive dairy managers scrutinize everything from handling (Read more: The Lost Art of Dairy Cow Stockmanship. When Push Comes to Nudge) to bedding (Read more: A Bedtime Dairy Tale: Once Upon a Hard Place…) with the goal of providing the perfect ambiance for productive bovines.  Although fast music was not specifically determined to decrease milk production, the three percent increase attributed to slower music is one of the easiest to put into play, if you will.  Perhaps the smart thing is to mimic spa music. No big cash investment.  Simply select easy listening.

Want Milk?  It’s Time for Rhythm and Moos. Not Willy Nelson!

When first looking in – or listening in – to milking music it would seem logical that country music would find a welcome in the milking parlor.  In the biggest revelation of all, we discover that this just isn’t so.  In fact, Willy Nelson’s music is proven to be counterproductive on milk production. So here’s another sad story for a musical genre built on sad stories.  Although studies don’t prove that country music is bad … they do suggest that fast country won’t put more milk in the pail. Forget Garth Brooks and “Thunder Rolls” and tune-up some golden oldies like, “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain.”  Of course, sounds of waterfalls could have a positive effect too!

Is it Science or Pavlov`s Cows in the Milking Parlor

Remember Pavlov’s dogs that became conditioned to salivate when being fed.  Conditioning at milking time is possible too … and music may be noteworthy! One study conducted in 1996 assessed the impact of music on cows’ behavior in a dairy with an automated milking system (AMS), in which the cows herd themselves to the milking machines. This study showed that when music was played specifically during the milking period for a period of a few months, more cows came to the AMS than when music wasn’t played at all. In other words, music encouraged more cows to be ready to milk than no music. The abstract of this study does not mention what type of music was played and in my mind, indicates the behavior similar to Pavlov’s famous dogs that were trained to salivate at the ring of a bell. These cows associated music with milking and this influenced their physiology.

Music to Milk By

When creating your own moo-worthy mix tape, keep in mind that the type of music may be less important than the beat.  This conclusion regarding rhythm was reached by Leanne Alworth of the University of Georgia. She proposes listening to new age.  Other sources looking into calming music have compiled lists.

The following suggestions are from Modern Farmer:

  • What a Difference A Day Makes, Aretha Franklin
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel
  • Moon River, Danny Williams
  • Perfect Day, Lou Reed
  • Oronoco Flow, Celtic Woman

The University of Leicester also gets into the musical milking scene suggesting R.E.M.’s hit “Everybody Hurts.”  Speaking of everybody, the people actually doing the milking should be consulted as well.  It’s always important (and therefore more likely to have success) if everyone in the milking parlor has input on what music they like to “workout” to. Remember the old quotation. “Music calms the savage beast” or correctly quoted, “Music calms the savage breast!”… It works for dairy udders too!

Play Mozart in the Maternity Pen

When you’re updating your musical playlists, don’t forget the maternity pen. Here is a place where reducing stress is especially important.  On some dairy farm, they play classical music in this location. Brahms, Beethoven and Bach are welcoming sounds for cows, calves, veterinarians and the calving team. If you think about it “The timing of milk production in bovines is a carefully balanced biological ballet.”  If “Midsummer Night’s Dream” or “The Nutcracker” doesn’t ring your bell, try anything by Enya. It works for me!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

A stressed cow is not a productive cow. Despite their contented expressions, the constant motion and machine noises of daily milking may be adding stress to your dairy cow’s day. You can change that. Are your cows picking up on good vibrations?  Want More Milk?  Get Moo-ed Music!

 

 

 

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