Move Over, Bach. Our Cows Like Chuck Berry

Dairy farmers have long suspected that playing music gets cows in the mood to make more milk. Now there’s research to back that claim, although its findings are inconclusive.

As early as 1930, researchers at the University of Wisconsin asked the Ingenues, an all-girl band, to serenade bovines at the school’s Madison-based dairy as part of an experiment to determine whether music boosted milk production. Little else but a photo, now part of the Wisconsin Historical Archives, was published. Seventy years later, a widely reported study by the University of Leicester in the U.K. found that cows produced 3 percent more milk when they listened to mellow music. Among their favorites: “Everybody Hurts,” by R.E.M., “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel and “What a Diff’rence a Day Made” by Aretha Franklin.

Slow and steady and 100 beats per minute seemed to get the milk flowing, the 2001 study found. Faster music had little effect, however. The jury is still out on exactly why, and it’s not likely we’ll ever know. Replicating a controlled, large-scale experiment needed to nail down actual science is through-the-roof expensive.

But one thing is certain: Calm, content cows produce more milk, music or no music at least from our experience (which helps explain why performers in England tested the theory at a local farm with their rendition of Shakespear’s comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor). The result? More milk.

A 2014 American music experiment proved more promising, however. That year, musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra visited the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary to play the violin, guitar and oboe for rescued animals Kayli, Maybelle, Mike and Maribeth. Amazingly, the typically shy cows fell for Bach and helped give birth to the Bovine Music Appreciation Society.

It’s hard to say whether Trinity Valley’s cows are that sophisticated. Admittedly, we’ve never tested Beethoven, Mozart, Bruckner or Brahms. Our barn radio plays Christian, country, rockabilly, and rhythm and blues because that’s what co-owner Branden Brown listens to most often.

Simply a guess, but their favorite artists are probably Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Patsy Cline, Amy Grant, Sandi Patty, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins and George Strait in no particular order.

In all seriousness, however, it is important to note that cow comfort and high milk yields go hand in hand. Cows that are comfortable are less stressed, eat more, experience fewer health problems and are less susceptible to injury. The traditional methods for keeping cows happy aren’t complicated: feed them well, keep the temperature comfortable and give them room to move around, Brown says. “And if music keeps them mellow, well, ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ it is.”

Video Bovines Fall for Bach

MOOdy cows are never a good thing…
We milk our cows 2 to 3 times a day. And they actually like it. If cows aren’t milked regularly, they get agitated and grumpy because an overly full udder is uncomfortable.