Giving a cow a name and constantly handling her as a human being including giving a personal touch can increase milk yield by upto 284 litres, scientists say, a discovery now likely to add credence to Kenya dairy farmers practice of traditionally naming their cows which they believed had an effect on 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 behaviour around cattle.
Dr Douglas and Dr Rowlinson from The Newcastle University questioned 516 UK dairy farmers about how they believed humans could affect the productivity, behaviour and welfare of dairy cattle.
Almost half , 46 per cent, said the cows on their farm were called by name. Those that called their cows by name had a 258 litre higher milk yield than those who did not.
Sixty six per cent of farmers said they “knew all the cows in the herd” and 48 per cent agreed that positive human contact was more likely to produce cows with a good milking temperament.
Almost 10 per cent 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 – also significantly increase milk production."
Kenyan dairy farmers like their UK counterparts have traditionally believed 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. Farmers from the Kikuyu community names their cows based on the colour, character and season it was born a tradition that has been passed over generations and is still widely applied todate. Njiru for for example means cows that has more than one colour, Mathaga means a cow that is ever jumpy and looks clean and neat, while Maturi represents one which has lived for long and still healthy. “I have had many cows since I started farming, specifically four decades ago. I have sold some, I have lost some to disease, but I named all of them. My favourite which I had named Mathaga, a dark and white stripped one was the envy of many and I could sit and talk to it. It produced on average 15 litres a day and I know how I showed it affection contributed to the milk it produced,” says Mrs Evelyne Kabura an 80 year retired teacher.
So why don’t all dairy farmers give their cows names? Some think that it is only superstition and that it doesn’t really work. And Dr Douglas says that some farmers are simply too embarrassed – scared they will get caught while having a little chat with the livestock.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter