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Do cows produce more milk than it is required for their calves? It seems like cows are able to provide milk all the time (all year around). Is it so? Or do they, like other mammals, produce milk only in ammounts requeired by their offspring?
Dairy cows are bred, or selected to give milk. So they do produce excessively. The normal bovine wild type, like other mammals, not only produce less milk, but also will tend to stop lactating when the calf is not nursing.
I would be interested to know if dairy cows stop giving milk if they are not milked every day. I understand they can get very uncomfortable if they are not milked, but i don't know if they stop giving milk or if they are injured in some way.
The average domesticated dairy cow produces far more milk than would be required to feed their calf. All cows, wild and domesticated, will only lactate in the period between their calf's birth and weaning. Milk is calf-food, and when there's no calf, there's no evolutionary advantage in producing milk.
On dairy farms, cows are milked twice daily, from spring (when they give birth) until late autumn. This mechanical milking 'fools' the cow into continuing to lactate. When a cow has stopped lactating, they will only start again after giving birth. This means that you can't just start milking a cow and expect to get milk.
Generally farmers milk their cows from spring (birth) until late autumn. The reason for stopping in autumn is simply because the grass grows much slower in winter, so there isn't enough food to support lactating cows. However, it is entirely possible to milk longer than a year; I know of farmers who milk their cows continuously for two years. These farmers will have to purchase a lot of supplimental food (like hay or silage) during winter. The advantage of milking for longer than one season is that the cows do not have to give birth every spring, but instead only every second spring.
I believe (but can't guarantee) that in winter, most milk purchased in a shop comes from the opposite hemisphere. I do know that here in New Zealand, we export a lot of milk to northern-hemisphere countries.
If you were to suddenly stop milking a cow, they might get sick but generally they will survive. It's still something to avoid! Although if the calf is left with their mother then the cow would be relieved.
I do not have an 'official' source for these facts. However, I grew up on a dairy farm, so this was my life.
Cows only produce milk after a calf is born and their lactation period lasts approximately 10 months. In many instances, farmers have given growth hormone (GH)¹ to cows in order for them to produce more milk. It must be noted that there are many side effects associated with this, not to mention the residual effects it may have on us humans as consumers. Primarily though, the cows would have decreased immune efficiency and this would leave them vulnerable to all types of parasitic infections or disease.
Cow’s Milk: A Cruel and Unhealthy Product
Given the chance, cows nurture their young and form lifelong friendships with one another. They play games and have a wide range of emotions and personality traits. But most cows raised for the dairy industry are intensively confined, leaving them unable to fulfill their most basic desires, such as nursing their calves, even for a single day. They are treated like milk-producing machines and are genetically manipulated and may be pumped full of antibiotics and hormones in order to produce more milk. While cows suffer on these farms, humans who drink their milk increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments.
Cows Suffer on Dairy Farms
Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do—to nourish their young—but calves on dairy farms are taken away from their mothers when they are just 1 day old. 1 They are fed milk replacers (including cattle blood) so that their mothers’ milk can be sold to humans. 2
Female cows are artificially inseminated shortly after their first birthdays. 3 After giving birth, they lactate for 10 months and are then inseminated again, continuing the cycle. Some spend their entire lives standing on concrete floors others are confined to massive, crowded lots, where they are forced to live amid their own feces. A North Carolina dairy closed its doors following revelations from a whistleblower that the cows were forced to eat, walk and sleep in knee-deep waste. 4 An investigation into a Pennsylvania farm that ships tons of milk for cheese production in Maryland revealed animals who were wallowing in their own manure in filthy barns with no bedding, while more than half of the cows who were being milked had leg joints that were swollen, ulcerated, or missing hair. 5 Please visit PETA.org for more information on this case.
Cows have a natural lifespan of about 20 years and can produce milk for eight or nine years. 6 However, the stress caused by the conditions on factory farms leads to disease, lameness, and reproductive problems that render cows worthless to the dairy industry by the time that they’re 4 or 5 years old, at which time they are sent to be slaughtered. 7
On any given day, there are more than 9 million cows on U.S. dairy farms—about 12 million fewer than there were in 1950. 8,9 Yet milk production has continued to increase, from 116 billion pounds of milk per year in 1950 to 215 billion pounds in 2017. 10,11 Normally, these animals would produce only enough milk to meet the needs of their calves, but genetic manipulation—and, in some cases, antibiotics and hormones—is used to cause each cow to produce more than 22,000 pounds of milk each year. 12 Cows are also fed unnatural, high-protein diets—which can include chicken feathers and fish—because their natural diet of grass would not provide the nutrients that they need to produce such massive amounts of milk. 13
Painful inflammation of the mammary glands, or mastitis, is common among cows raised for their milk, and it is one of dairy farms’ most frequently cited reasons for sending cows to slaughter. There are about 150 bacteria that can cause the disease, one of which is E. coli. 14 Symptoms are not always visible, so milk’s somatic cell count (SCC) is checked to determine whether the milk is infected. Somatic cells include white blood cells and skin cells that are normally shed from the lining of the udder. As in humans, white blood cells—also known as “pus”—are produced as a means of combating infection. The SCC of healthy milk is below 100,000 cells per milliliter however, the dairy industry is allowed to combine milk from all the cows in a herd in order to arrive at a “bulk tank” somatic cell count (BTSCC). 15 Milk with a maximum BTSCC of 750,000 cells per milliliter can be sold. 16 A BTSCC of 600,000 or more generally indicates that more than two-thirds of the cows in the herd are suffering from udder infections. 17
Studies have shown that providing cows with cleaner housing, more space, and better diets, bedding, and care lowers their milk’s SCC as well as their incidence of mastitis. 18 A Danish study of cows subjected to automated milking systems found “acutely elevated cell counts during the first year compared with the previous year with conventional milking. The increase came suddenly and was synchronized with the onset of automatic milking.” 19 Instead of improving conditions in factory farms or easing cows’ production burden, the dairy industry is exploring the use of cattle who have been genetically manipulated to be resistant to mastitis. 20
The Veal Connection
If you drink milk, you’re subsidizing the veal industry. While female calves are slaughtered or kept alive to produce milk, male calves are often taken away from their mothers when they are as young as 1 day old to be chained in tiny stalls for three to 18 weeks and raised for veal. 21,22 Calves raised for veal are fed a milk substitute that is designed to make them gain at 2 to 3 pounds per day, and their diet is purposely low in iron so that their flesh stays pale as a result of anemia. 23,24 In addition to suffering from diarrhea, pneumonia, and lameness, calves raised for veal are terrified and desperate for their mothers.
Large dairy farms have an enormously detrimental effect on the environment. In California, America’s top milk-producing state, manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds of square miles of groundwater, rivers, and streams. 25 Each of the more than 1 million cows on the state’s dairy farms excretes 18 gallons of manure daily. 26,27 Overall, factory-farmed animals, including those on dairy farms, produce 1.65 billion tons of manure each year, much of which ends up in waterways and drinking water. 28 The Environmental Protection Agency reports that agricultural runoff is a major cause of polluted lakes, streams, and rivers. 29 The dairy industry is the primary source of smog-forming pollutants in California a single cow emits more of these harmful gasses than a car does. 30
Two-thirds of all agricultural land in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food or to grow grain to feed them. 31 Each cow raised by the dairy industry consumes as much as 50 gallons of water per day. 32
Human Bodies Fight Cow’s Milk
Besides humans (and companion animals who are fed by humans), no species drinks milk beyond infancy or drinks the milk of another species. Cow’s milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they are 2 years old. 33
Cow’s milk is one of the primary causes of food allergies among children. 34 Most people begin to produce less lactase, the enzyme that helps with the digestion of milk, when they are as young as 2 years old. This reduction can lead to lactose intolerance. 35 Millions of Americans are lactose intolerant, and an estimated 95 percent of Asian-Americans and 80 percent of Native- and African-Americans suffer from the condition, which can cause bloating, gas, cramps, vomiting, headaches, rashes, and asthma. 36 A U.K. study showed that people who suffered from irregular heartbeats, asthma, headaches, fatigue, and digestive problems “showed marked and often complete improvements in their health after cutting milk from their diets.” 37
Calcium and Protein Myths
Although American women consume tremendous amounts of calcium, their rates of osteoporosis are among the highest in the world. 38,39 Medical studies indicate that rather than preventing the disease, milk may actually increase women’s risk of getting osteoporosis. A Harvard Nurses’ Study of more than 77,000 women ages 34 to 59 found that those who consumed two or more glasses of milk per day had higher risks of broken hips and arms than those who drank one glass or less per day. 40 T. Colin Campbell, professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, said, “The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as that between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.” 41
Find more animals like this
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Herbivore
- Lifespan: 20-25 years
- Size: Varies with breed however average is around 1.4m high
- Weight: Average 750 kg
- Habitat: Various including rain forests, wetlands, prairies, savannas and temperate forests
- Range: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and North America
- Scientific name: Bos
Plan ahead to be sure of success
© Egrego2 – licence
As with any task, planning ahead will provide a better foundation for success and give you a higher chance of meeting your targets. Having a plan for your herd will ensure that you have covered all of the angles in advance, and will also allow you to prepare for any potential risks. Sit down with your staff and come up with a 12-month plan for your herd, taking into account calving, nutrition, dry periods, and a herd health and welfare plan.
- Consider how well your calving seasons have gone in previous years. There might be a lot of positive aspects that you can carry forth, but you should concentrate on the things that you feel that you could improve upon in the forthcoming season.
- Plan the set-up of your calving shed well in advance of the season. Was the set-up in previous years as good as it could be? Could you make any changes, such as altering the layout or adding extra pens? What would make the process more efficient?
- Make sure you have the correct supplies in storage ahead of time. You should have a good supply of essential equipment and materials, such as tags and taggers, spare needles, electrolytes, and animal health products.
- Check and clean your calf feeders, repair any that are showing wear and tear, and replace any worn teats.
- Prepare a calving kit and appoint someone to keep it fully stocked. It should contain: lubricant, disposable obstetrical sleeves, non-irritant antiseptic, obstetrical chain, obstetrical handles, mechanical calf pullers, and injectable antibiotics. There are some simple items that should be included as well, such as paper towels and a torch with extra batteries. You should store all of the equipment in a container that everyone on the farm can access.
- Work out set processes to carry out calving tasks and make sure that all of your staff are aware of them. You should post instructions for each process in the area they are most likely to take place. Make sure they are clearly visible for easy reference.
- Compile a list of contacts and their phone numbers that can be called in case of emergency.
Food and nutrition plan
- Review your current feeding system. Is it as efficient as it could be? Are there any ways that you could minimise the amount of waste produced?
- Work out the energy requirements for all of your dairy cows for the forthcoming year: being aware of their needs will help you to work out a suitable feeding plan.
- Work out your current feed efficiency. Having a more efficient feed will help you to save money by providing the essential nutrients for your cows at a lower cost.
- Make sure you are aware of the nutritional content of your grass, silage, forages and bought-in feeds.
- Be vigilant when monitoring the performance of your cattle as any problems may be directly linked to their feeding regime. Monitor vital statistics such as milk records, weight, body condition score, and blood profiles for an accurate picture of stock progress.
- Look for ways to save money, such as increasing the use of grazed grass and home-grown feeds, and using bought-in feeds as efficiently as possible.
Dry period plan
- You will need to collect three pieces of information to plan a successful dry period: milk production, body condition score, and calving dates.
- Recording your cows’ milk information will allow you to identify the cows with somatic cell count (SCC) that will need an extended dry period and additional treatments.
- Establishing the body condition score (BCS) of your cows will help you to ascertain which cows are in the right condition to enter their pre-calving dry period. A score of 2.5–3 is ideal for the dry period.
- Knowing your cows’ calving due date is essential to working out when to begin their dry period. As cows gestate for around nine months, you can work out when this will be from the date that they were inseminated. You can also scan your cows to ensure that everything is moving on schedule.
- Put together your dry period plan. Each cow will need a minimum of 60 days, with extra allowance for cows with high SCC or low BCS. Include provision for treatment of parasites such as liver fluke, worms, lice, and rumen fluke.
- Consult with your vet and put together a vaccination schedule for the dry period.
Herd health and welfare plan
As the owner of your dairy herd, you have the most significant influence over the health and welfare of your cows. You should draw up a written health and welfare plan with your herd’s vet and any other technical advisors. You should review and update this plan every year to ensure you are prepared for any new or emerging diseases or health hazards.
The plan should set out health and husbandry activities that cover the whole year’s cycle of production and should include provisions for the prevention, treatment and limitation of existing disease problems. The plan should also include provision to keep livestock records that will enable you to accurately monitor and assess the herd’s health and welfare.
Inside the Milk Machine: How Modern Dairy Works
How does milk get made? It's a process that is far more shrouded in mystery than it used to be. Modern Farmer spent two days at Ronnybrook Farm in upstate New York to get an inside look at the relationship between cow, calf, milk and farmer.
Milk myths didn’t stop with the Greeks, though. Ever since the first cow udders were yanked by human hands, the substance has invited inspection, suspicion, fear and desire. But these days, we milk drinkers are so disconnected from where our milk comes from that it could well originate in a vending machine. The typical dairy buyer lives in a city or a suburb, and likes to imagine that milk still comes from a small family farm with a red barn and cows grazing on a hill, where loving human hands squirt milk from the animals’ teats into a pail. This imagery is so historically pervasive that in 1935, a Los Angeles milk inspector initiated the Dairy Roadside Appearance Program, encouraging farmers to clean up their land, paint their barns and plant flowers to perpetuate this milking myth to urban milk buyers.
That vision, illusory even at the time, is now almost completely obsolete. Milk has become a global industry, produced at a scale that defies nature. While most American farms still have fewer than 100 cows, 86 percent of milk is produced on the 26 percent of farms that have more than 100 cows.
At one time, milk was one of the more natural processes in farming. ‘A bull would impregnate a cow”Š – ”Šan actual bull, before the age of artificial insemination”Š. She was pregnant for ‘nine months and then a baby cow ‘was born.
From the calf’s birth to up to three months after it was weaned, the farmer would milk the excess dairy by hand, for drinking, butter and maybe cheese. That’s it. Until now.’
Afterwards, from the calf’s birth to up to three months after it was weaned, the farmer would milk the excess dairy by hand, for drinking, butter and maybe cheese. That’s it.
With the rise of factory farming, milk is now a most unnatural operation. The modern dairy farm can have hundreds, even thousands of cows. Today’s average dairy cow produces six to seven times as much milk as she did a century ago. Cows spend their lives being ‘constantly impregnated in order to produce milk. Bulls can be difficult, so the majority of dairy cows are now artificially inseminated. Sex is a thing of the past. Antibiotics cure infections. Hormones have been designed to increase milk production. The cows ‘are pushed hard for this production, and, after roughly three or four years, their production slackens and they are sold off for hamburger meat. Today, ‘the United States is the largest producer of milk in the world, followed by India and China.
The animals spend their lives being fed in an indoor stall or a crowded feedlot. Each cow produces milk for as much as 305 days a year. One of the largest dairy farms in the world is under construction in Vietnam and is slated to hold 32,000 cows.
But does it have to be this way? As dairy farmers in the United States struggle to make a living, a new kind of operation has taken hold”Š – ”Šone that puts animal welfare and small-scale operations at the heart of the business. It’s an experiment in progress, but during visits to a number of upstate New York operations, there were signs that this “new milk” could be a viable way forward. The lingering question is: Will consumers pay more to know where their milk comes from?
Milk has long been a source of controversy, both for its production and consumption. During the 1800s, poor sanitation in dairies led to outbreaks of milk-borne disease. French scientist Louis Pasteur demonstrated in 1862 that heating milk could eliminate the risk. Yet pasteurization was and, to some degree, is still controversial. Once milk is pasteurized it is considered no longer “a natural product” like raw milk. In the 1890s a doctor named Henry Coit established a board of physicians, called the Medical Milk Commission, to certify the safety of a farm’s milk. Certification brought a higher retail price that few customers were willing or able to pay.
And so in the mid-20th century dairy farming underwent a major change. The federal government fixed a minimum price for Grade A liquid milk, milk for drinking. The price dropped. Farmers had to produce more. To produce more, cows needed to eat more protein, which meant farmers bought high-protein grains, such as soy and grasses like alfalfa. Many dairy farmers were also grain farmers, but soon it became difficult to produce enough to sustain their cows, and they became grain purchasers. Unfortunately, the prices for grain and fuel went even higher, while milk was fixed at a low price. This made it harder, bordering on impossible, to make a profit on milk.
As industrial agriculture evolved, the dairy industry became dominated by the huge operations that provide milk for families all over the country. With the pressure to produce more milk came more selective breeding of livestock, and, by the 1980s, the dairy industry was dominated by corn-fed Holstein cows. The Holstein, a large, usually black-and-white Dutch cow, prospered on grain and produced tremendous quantities of milk. No longer using the time-consuming grazing process, grain-fed cows could be kept indoors. Scientists began reading the coding sequences in DNA and selecting the specific genes that farmers favored. Selective breeding led to cows with a particular shape of leg, a high udder, a high fertility rate and strong milk production.1 --> 2 --> 3 --> 4 -->
Today’s Holstein cow is a product of human engineering, as people have altered its genome by 22 percent over the past 40 years.
With milk prices artificially low, small farmers must either become large and industrial or produce a “special,” more expensive milk.
The Ooms have 450 large Holstein cows on 1,500 acres in New York’s Hudson Valley. The farm is neither tidy nor picturesque but worked hard and profitably. Of the eight people working the farm full-time, five are family. Since the 16th century in Holland, the Ooms have been dairy farmers. They have few vacations, and usually see only one day off every three weeks. No one can say what the Oomses’ milk tastes like because it is sold at a fixed minimum price to a cooperative, where it is then mixed in large tanks with other milks”Š – ”Šmuch of it used for Vermont’s famous Cabot cheese.
Their cows only occasionally graze. They are fed the corn and alfalfa grown on the farm, which frees the farm ‘from paying grain prices. The Ooms feel pressure to be big, which changes ‘their operation. Eric Oom, a heavyset man with close-cropped strawberry-blond hair, whose father, Adrianus, began the farm, finds keeping track of nutrients a drag. “If you let cows graze, you are not sure how much they are eating. If you stall-feed them you know exactly,” he says. In the barns, cows have a place to eat and a place to sleep. Eric dreams of being more industrial. He would like to get an expensive robot that can milk 65 cows at once and is programmed to know the udder shape of each animal.
‘Maybe someday we will get into local bottling, cheesemaking and yogurt, but it won’t be me. Maybe our kids will do it.’
But he also realizes that there is a movement toward more artisanal dairies. “Maybe someday we will get into local bottling, cheesemaking and yogurt, but it won’t be me. Maybe our kids will do it.”
Not all farmers can make conventional farming work. In 1998, Cory Upson ran a conventional dairy in upstate New York, with 55 Holsteins producing Grade A milk at the low minimum price (which, at the time, dipped to under $10 per hundredweight, 11.6 gallons). He became an organic dairy farmer with a straightforward reason for switching from conventional to organic: “We didn’t make any money.” At the time, he had mostly Holsteins but noticed that his two Dutch Belted cows prospered without grains that the Holsteins seemed to need. So he gradually switched to a herd of 23 Dutch Belted cows, which are entirely fed on grass. Today, they graze on the hills of his Belted Rose Farm near Cooperstown, New York.
“To make more money,” he explains, “you increase revenue or reduce expenses.” He radically reduced his operating costs by becoming an organic farmer. He no longer buys grain and is training horses to replace tractors, which will reduce equipment and fuel expenses. He now has less than half as many cows and his cows produce less than half as much milk. But organic milk is priced on the assumption that people will pay more for it – he sells his milk to Horizon, the largest-selling organic milk brand in America, for roughly $33 a hundredweight. “I’m not getting rich, but we can pay our bills now,” he says.
To Upson and many of the “new” dairy farmers, the key is sustainability. It’s an old idea, but after a century of industrialization, it’s reemerging as a new concept: The farm must produce what it needs and not buy it from industry. One of the world’s leading sustainable farming proponents is Patrick Holden. His farm, Bwlchwernen Fawr, just celebrated its 40th anniversary, making it the longest-established organic dairy farm in Wales. “An industrial farm is like an airport,” he says, explaining that animals are processing anonymous foodstuffs from all over the planet – which then, of course, go right into human diets.
Holden currently buys some oats and peas to supplement the grass, clover and grains he grows. This makes his farm about 70 percent sustainable, but he’s working toward a target of percent.
In the milk business, popular perception is more important than science. Will consumers pay for organic milk? The answer seems to be yes.
He maintains that the low price of industrial milk is an illusion. When the cost to the environment and health is factored in, he insists, cheap milk isn’t cheaper at all. Large industrial farms pollute the area with too much manure from too many cows. Something as simple as cows farting, when multiplied by thousands of cows, becomes a significant cause of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Holden believes that people – especially city people – are beginning to see what is wrong with large farms: “They sell the product cheap and try to make it look like a farm-fresh product,” he says. “Everybody has been sleeping the past 60 years. Now they are waking up.”
Holden isn’t alone in his concern about the unsustainability of factory farming: Consumers now demand more options. Dairies came late to the organic food movement in America, but once organic milk hit the market, it sold faster than any other organic food. People wanted to know that their milk was produced with special care. In order for milk to get organic certification, the cows producing it could not be treated with hormones or antibiotics, nor could they be fed grains from genetically modified crops. Consumers also objected to the use of hormones, although farmers themselves curtailed their usage because promises of increased milk production turned out to be exaggerated.
In the milk business, popular perception is more important than science. Will consumers pay for organic milk? The answer seems to be yes. In 1999, sales hit roughly $75 million in the U.S. Now, organic milk and cream bring in some $2.5 billion per year.
But milk lovers might be surprised by exactly what “organic” dairy entails. Horizon”Š – ”Šone of just a handful of companies that dominate the organic milk market”Š – ”Šbuys its milk from over 600 organic farms around the country, including Upson’s Belted Rose Farm. Horizon milk, originating at large and small farms, is mixed in tanks and packaged as Horizon. Large national companies may not be what enthusiasts of the organic food movement had in mind, considering that the organic movement is tied to the locavore movement and the belief that quality food comes from small local farms who know their customers.1 --> 2 --> 3 -->
7 Scientific Studies About How Animals React to Music
Music is pretty universally enjoyed . when it comes to people. Animals, on the other hand, have diverse reactions to tunes. For every Ronan the head-bopping sea lion, there are plenty of creatures that can't keep the beat. Here are seven scientific discoveries about how some animals react to music, either created by humans or themselves.
1. DOGS IN KENNELS MIGHT BE LESS STRESSED WHILE LISTENING TO CLASSICAL MUSIC.
In a 2012 study [PDF] published in The Journal of Veterinary Behavior, researchers from Colorado State University monitored the behavior of 117 kenneled dogs, including their activity levels, vocalization, and body shaking. The researchers played a few different types of music to the dogs, including classical, heavy metal, and an altered type of classical music. They also observed the dogs' behavior when no music was playing at all. They found that the dogs slept the most while listening to all kinds of classical music, indicating that it helped them relax. The dogs had the opposite reaction to the metal music, which provoked increased body shaking—a sign of nervousness.
The researchers noted the similarities between dogs and people when it comes to classical music. “These results are consistent with human studies, which have suggested that music can reduce agitation, promote sleep, improve mood, and lower stress and anxiety,” they wrote. They also point out that heavy metal music has anxiety-inducing effects on some people as well.
2. CATS DON'T CARE ABOUT HUMAN MUSIC, BUT SCIENTISTS ARE ABLE TO CREATE MUSIC THAT THEY DO ENJOY.
Cats either don't care for, or are pretty indifferent to, human music. Thankfully, Charles Snowdon, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, David Teie, a composer at the University of Maryland, and Megan Savage, formerly of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and now a Ph.D. student at SUNY-Binghamton, have developed music that contains frequencies and tempos similar to the ones cats use to communicate. We tested some of the songs on one of our editor's cats earlier this year you can listen to samples of the songs here.
Snowdon and Savage went to 47 households with cats and played them music, including two classical songs and two songs developed for felines. When the researchers played the latter, the cat was more likely to move towards the speaker, or even rub up against it, according to their study, which was published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science earlier this year. Interestingly, young and old cats reacted to the cat songs the most positively. Middle-aged cats showed more indifference.
3. IT'S ALSO POSSIBLE TO MAKE MONKEY MUSIC.
Cats weren't the first animals Snowdon, Savage, and Teie made species-specific music for. In 2009, they developed songs that mirrored the pitch of monkey calls. For their study, which was published in the journal Biology Letters, the scientists played the music for tamarin monkeys. Songs that were inspired by the calming calls the animals make caused the monkeys to relax they even ate more while listening to those songs. But when the researchers played music that contained sounds similar to ones the monkeys make when they’re expressing fear, the monkeys became agitated. (You can listen to the songs here.) The monkeys were mostly indifferent to human music—their behavior didn't noticeably change when they were listening to Nine Inch Nails, Tool, or Samuel Barber. But, interestingly, when they heard “Of Wolf and Man” by Metallica, they grew calmer.
4. COWS PRODUCE MORE MILK WHEN THEY'RE LISTENING TO RELAXING MUSIC.
In 2001, researchers at the University of Leicester played various songs to 1000-strong herds of Friesian dairy cows. Over a period of nine weeks, the researchers alternated between fast music, slow music, and silence for 12 hours each day. They found that calming music—like R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony"—actually resulted in the cows producing 3 percent more milk—0.73 liters per cow per day. One of the lead researchers, Dr. Adrian North, told the BBC, “Calming music can improve milk yield, probably because it reduces stress.” The cows were not so into “Space Cowboy” by Jamiroquai or “Size of a Cow” by Wonderstuff.
5. ELEPHANTS MIGHT BE BETTER AT PLAYING MUSIC THAN HUMANS ARE.
Elephants are already known for their ability to paint with their trunks, but it turns out that they might be musically inclined as well. (Just check out this viral video of elephants swaying their trunks to violin music!) In northern Thailand, a conservationist named Richard Lair put together the Thai Elephant Orchestra, in which 16 elephants play specially developed instruments like steel drums and even harmonicas. Neuroscientists who have studied the music of the Thai Elephant Orchestra have determined that the animals are able to keep a very stable tempo on a large drum—even more stable than a human can.
6. BIRD BRAINS REACT TO MUSIC IN A MANNER SIMILAR TO HUMAN BRAINS.
Birds are probably the most well-known singers of the animal kingdom. A few years ago, researchers at Emory University set out to learn whether birds are actually making music, like humans do. To find out, they examined the brains of both male and female white-tailed sparrows as they listened to the sounds of male birds.
When humans listen to music, our amygdalae often light up in response. It turned out that female white-tailed sparrows had similar brain responses to the bird sounds. The part of their brain that’s similar to the amygdala lit up while listening to the male’s song. The male birds, on the other hand, had brain reactions similar to when humans listen to music they don’t like. Sarah Earp, the study's lead researcher, explained, “We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like.”
7. FISH KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMPOSERS.
In 2013, a study was published in the journal Behavioral Processes that revealed that goldfish could be trained to distinguish between composers. Researchers at Keio University used pieces of music by two composers in the study: Igor Stravinsky and Johann Sebastian Bach. The goal was to train the goldfish to gnaw on a ball filled with food when the correct composer’s music was playing. One group of fish got Stravinsky and a separate group got Bach. When the fish heard music, they went to gnaw on the ball and were rewarded with food. Once the fish were correlating a composer’s music with the reward, the researchers tried playing the other composer’s music. The goldfish didn’t gnaw on the ball at that point, indicating that they knew enough about the pitch and timbre of their composer to not associate the novel music with food.
Gut bacteria could be key to producing tastier cow’s milk
It's not just good breeding and tasty grass that make a dairy cow a champion milk producer. It's also the microbes that live in the animal’s gut. Now, researchers say they know which microbes lead to the best milk.
The finding suggests new ways to improve milk and reduce methane emissions from cows—a major source of the greenhouse gas—says Diego Morgavi, an animal scientist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Clermont-Ferrand-Theix who was not involved with the work.
Cows and other ruminants such as goats and sheep have a special stomach called a rumen that houses millions of microbes. These organisms break down hay, grass, and other hard-to-digest plant material into usable nutrients and calories. A downside is that ruminants burp and fart out 100 million tons of microbe-generated methane a year worldwide, making them the second-biggest human-related contributor of this greenhouse gas, after rice cultivation.
To see how these microbes play a role in milk quality and methane production, Itzik Mizrahi, a biologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel, teamed up with John Wallace, an animal scientist at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom, to characterize the microbes in several herds of cows and to see whether those microbes influence any of hundreds of traits, such as growth rate, milk quality and quantity, and methane production.
They collected microbial DNA and information about those traits from more than 1000 cows on seven farms in the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, and Finland. The cows were Holsteins and Norwegian Reds—two breeds that constitute the majority of dairy livestock in Europe.
From the DNA, the team identified the microbes in each cow’s gut and compared communities to see what bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and other microbes they had in common. Then the researchers used machine learning—sophisticated computer programs that can find connections among massive amounts of disparate data—to figure out how microbes might influence particular traits.
Although each cow had a unique microbiome, half of the animals had 512 microbial species in common, the team reports today in Science Advances. The analyses indicated that 39 “core microbes” are more powerful than genes in determining how tasty a cow’s milk is, and even how much methane it produces.
Gut microbes have a surprisingly powerful effect on these traits, says Fabio Lima, who studies the cow microbiome and milk production at the University of Illinois in Urbana. Morgavi would like to see whether other cow breeds have the same core microbes. But in the meantime, he thinks that giving certain microbes to calves in their food—similar to probiotics people take—might reduce methane production.
Manipulating an entire population of microbes will be challenging, notes Lima, who is already trying to do just that to improve milk taste or quantity. But at least it’s now clear that adding certain microbes to the gut can make a difference, Wallace says.
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Here’s the Crux…
There are many nutritionists who claim that cow’s milk is at the root of many of our modern health problems. But there are just as many who claim that a fear of drinking milk is as illogical as believing that there are monsters hiding under the bed.
Some nutritionists point out that the levels of IGF-1 in milk is equal to the level found in our own saliva. This implies that the IGF-1 found in milk is simply too low to have an impact on our health.
Furthermore, while pasteurisation does not remove all traces of antibiotics and pus, it does kill enough bacteria to make it safe to pour on our cereal.
Caring for Jersey Cows
The Jersey breed generally cost less to maintain than other larger breeds due to their lower bodyweight and small size, high fertility, and they calve with ease with a low rate of dystocia (obstructed labor). Their Jersey milk production is also admirable for cow breeds in America. The breed society, American Jersey Cattle Club, was formed in 1868.
They are, however, more prone to post-parturient hypocalcaemia (or " milk fever "), which means there is lower levels of calcium in the mother cow's milk. If a cow has this disease, the calf will need more attention.
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Do you have dairy cows? Have you ever been to the Isle of Jersey? Show or tell us in the comments below!
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