Could virtual reality headsets be the answer to reducing dairy herd anxiety and improving milk yield?
Have you heard the one about plugging cows into the matrix to improve the quality of their milk? Didn’t think so. We’re not even sure Neo would have foreseen this one. But on a dairy farm in Russia not far from Moscow you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked straight onto the set of The Matrix.
Here, it is hoped that science can find new ways of helping cows from the RusMoloko dairy farm to relax. Much like humans, they aren’t at their best when stressed and in cramped working conditions, so researchers are devising new ways to keep them relax and produce more milk.
In this instance that involves watching a summer field simulation program, created specifically in ‘shades of the red and weaker green and blue tones’ that cows can actually see, in order to determine whether or not a pasture scene alters the cows' moods.
But it’s not only moods that are affected. It appears this form of bovine escapism could tap into a cow’s emotional state, improving both milk yield and quality at the same time.
Of course, the global shift towards computerisation and the use of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), means that those within farming and agriculture are able to achieve new standards and innovative solutions that solve old problems whilst bringing new efficiencies.
Milk production is no different. Dairy research studies have shown that beyond the physical needs of cows within dairy farming, addressing their emotional needs can improve both milk quantity and quality.
Analysis of the welfare of dairy cattle by Wageningen University in the Netherlands and researchers from Scotland’s Rural College revealed that environmental conditions can significant impact upon the health of the herd and bring about positive changes to the milk produced.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region this has seen farmers broadcasting classical music to their cows and installing massage equipment, such as brushes, to improve the dairy experience.
Who can forget Hampshire vet, Alfonso Camassa’s, unique take on this?
In July the BBC reported that he had been taking things very seriously by training with a professional opera coach every week.
Why? Camassa has been using his opera training to serenade the cows he visits ahead of treating them.
Local farmers are said to be both impressed and amused in equal measure, while the verdict is ‘still out’ on what patients think.
And before we sign off we'd like to wish those celebrating Thanksgiving a lovely weekend.