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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Animal Note

Air Date: Week of July 13, 2001

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Living on Earth's Maggie Villiger reports on research that cows groove to slow songs.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Just ahead, Love, reptile style. First, this animal note from Maggie Villiger.

VILLIGER: Is old Bessie the cow stressed-out? If so, she may be listening to the wrong kind of music in her bovine barnyard. Researchers in England decided to investigate whether cows, like people, are calmed by soothing music. They used recorded music to serenade cattle 12 hours every day for two months. Some cows listened to fast-paced songs by bands like The Beatles. Another group of cows grooved to slower tunes, like "Moon River" or Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony." Cows in a third group just listened to the sound of chewing their own cud. Calm cows make more milk, so the researchers measured daily milk output. They discovered that cows exposed to slower songs produced about a cup more milk every day, compared to the cows in the no music group. But those tune-deprived cows still produced about two cups more milk every day than the cows subjected to the faster tunes. Songs with more than 120 beats per minute seemed to stress out the cows.

Farmers reportedly aren't surprised by the findings. Many have been playing the radio in their barns for years. But this is the first time scientists have documented the phenomenon. Next, the researchers want to examine how cows are affected by non-musical sounds, such as traffic. That's this week's animal update. I'm Maggie Villiger.

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CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living On Earth.

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