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Cows prefer direct ‘co-moo-nication’ with humans over recorded messages

After monitoring the animals’ responses during the experiments, they found live talking was the best mood enhancer for their bovine friends.

Published: 18th October 2020 12:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th October 2020 12:01 PM   |  A+A-

Cows decorated with bells and flowers during the annual ceremonial “cattle drive” at Gramai-Alm in Tyrol’s Karwendel Alpine nature park, Austria | AFP

By Express News Service

LONDON: After months of technology-based communication enforced by Covid-19, many may be missing a ‘live’ human interaction, but we are not the only ones feeling so — a new study reveals that cows too prefer a face-to-face chat.

The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, discovered that cows are actually more relaxed when spoken to directly by a live human, rather than when listening to a recorded voice via a loudspeaker.
“Cattle like stroking in combination with gentle talking.

In scientific contexts, a recording of a human voice speaking gently could be used to relax the animals, because it can be difficult to repeat the same phrases in the same way during experiments,” said study author Annika Lange from the University of Veterinary in Austria.

Using a recorded voice means conditions are as similar as possible in each trial, following a concept known as “standardisation” — an important principle of scientific experimentation. However, the team of scientists wanted to find out if cows respond differently to the sound of recorded voices compared to a human talking directly to them.

“Our study suggests that live talking is more relaxing for our animals than a recording of a human voice. Interactions may be less positive when they become artificial through standardization,” Lange added.
The team worked with a herd of 28 cattle, comparing the benefits of either stroking the animals while playing a recording of an experimenter’s voice or stroking while speaking to the animals directly.

After monitoring the animals’ responses during the experiments, they found live talking was the best mood enhancer for their bovine friends. Heart rate variability was higher when cattle were spoken to directly, indicating they were enjoying themselves.

“When relaxed and enjoying the interaction, the animals will often stretch out their necks as they do when they groom each other. Additionally, it is thought that ear positions may indicate mood: hanging ears and low ear positions appear to be linked to relaxation,” Lange said.

After this treatment, heart rates were lower than after listening to a recorded voice, showing that the animals were more relaxed following the live chat. Lange calls for further research to see if results are also valid for different herds and situations, such as with cows that are more fearful of humans. “This will help in further studies on the improvement of cattle-human relationships, an important aspect of animal welfare,” the  study authors noted.



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