Giving cows human names raises milk production: research

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-2-14 8:42:02

Do you have a dairy cow? And what is her name? Well, according to a recent research, cows too have human feelings. The better you treat them, the more milk she gives you.

Scientists say that giving a cow a name and constantly handling her as a human being including giving a personal touch can increase milk yield by up to 284 liters.

But astounding as it may sound, Xinhua sought to know whether Kenyan farmers really think a human name would make a cow produce more milk than one that has no name.

Patrick Njihia, a dairy farmer in Ruaka, says though the claim sounds superstitious, it has worked for him for as long as he can remember.

Njihia says his favorite is 'Rita', whose production is unrivalled. When well fed, she produces over 10 liters in a day. "People have always accused me of being superstitious but believe you me, that is something I have always believed in," says the farmer.

Njihia knows his cows by their names and says the names are inspired by the way they behave since birth.

In the shed, he points at 'Kaguta' which loosely translated means lazy. Kaguta, Njihia says, has been lazy since birth and that also is depicted in her produce. She doesn't give much milk since she is also lazy while feeding.

In Njihia's farm, you will find all sorts of names. He doesn't limit his choice of names. While some bear Luo names such as Awiti and Akinyi, others bear Kikuyu names. He jokingly says his cows embrace diversity. "Here we have respect for all, we are one family, tribalism is unheard of here," he jokingly says.

However, Janice Kanyi, a dairy farmer in Kawaida, Kiambu County doesn't share similar beliefs. "That's ridiculous, even if I were to name my cows as human beings, I wouldn't think that would make any difference in the in production," she says.

Her cows unlike Njihia's don't have human names; she names hers either by their birth time or what was trending at their birth.

She introduces us to Hague. Hague was born a few days after the Kenyan cases now at The Hague were confirmed.

However, human names connection with milk production isn't new in Kenya. Traditionally, farmers believed naming cows had an effect in their milk production.

Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed it they get more attention according to scientists from the Newcastle University who conducted the survey.

The suggestion is that a less stressed cow is not producing cortisol, the stress hormone, which interferes with milk let down. Inferred improvement in attitude towards cows will be reflected in improved behavior around cattle.

Dr Douglas and Dr Rowlinson from The Newcastle University questioned 516 United Kingdom dairy farmers about how they believed humans could affect the productivity, behavior and welfare of dairy cattle.

Almost half, 46 percent, said the cows on their farm were called by name. Those that called their cows by name had a 258 litres higher milk yield than those who did not.

Up to 66 percent of farmers said they "knew all the cows in the herd" and 48 percent agreed that positive human contact was more likely to produce cows with a good milking temperament.

Almost 10 percent said that a fear of humans resulted in a poor milking temperament.

Dr Douglas added, "Our data suggests that on the whole UK dairy farmers regard their cows as intelligent beings capable of experiencing a range of emotions.

"Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name can -- at no extra cost to the farmer ?C also significantly increase milk production."

Njihia says like his British counterparts, Kenyan he believes there is a connection between how well you treat the cow, not just feeding it but also stroking it, calling it by name and talking to it, with the amount of milk it produces.

Though they might not be aware of these facts, many farmers from the Kikuyu community name their cows based on the color, character and season.

So next you treat your cow badly, brace yourself for some tea without milk.

Posted in: Biology

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