Image: Anika Lange, a researcher participating in bovine union
Credits: © Institute of Animal Welfare Science, Vetmeduni Vienna
After months of technology-based communication carried out by COVID-19, many of us have lost the “living” human voice. But we are not alone. New research shows that cows also prefer face-to-face chat. This study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, found that cows were actually more relaxed when spoken directly by living humans than by listening to voices recorded through speakers.
“A cow stroking in combination with a gentle conversation,” says Annika Lange of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria. “In a scientific context, it is difficult to repeat the same phrase in the same way during an experiment, so you can use a gentle-speaking human voice recording to relax an animal.”
The use of recorded audio means that the conditions are as similar as possible in each trial, according to a concept known as “standardization”, which is an important principle of scientific experimentation. However, a team of scientists wanted to see if the cows responded differently to the recorded voices than the humans they spoke directly to. “Our research suggests that live conversations are more relaxing for our animals than recording human voices,” says Lange. “Interactions can be less positive when standardized and artificialized.”
The team worked with a herd of 28 cows to compare the benefits of stroking an animal while playing a recording of the experimenter’s voice, or talking directly to the animal. After monitoring the animal’s response during the experiment, they realized that live talk was the best mood booster for their bovine friends.
Talking directly to the cow will increase your heart rate variability and you will find that you are having fun. After this treatment, the heart rate was lower than after listening to the recorded voice, indicating that the animal was more relaxed after the live chat.
How do chilled cows behave? “When relaxing and enjoying interaction, animals often stretch their necks as they do when caring for each other,” says Lange. “In addition, it is believed that ear position may indicate mood. Low-set ears and low-set ears appear to be associated with relaxation.”
The experiment included only one herd and one replay record. Lange is calling for further research to see if the results are valid in different herds and situations, including cows that are more afraid of humans. This will help in further research on improving the relationship between cattle and humans, an important aspect of animal welfare.
Notes to editors
Original article: https: //www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.579346/full
Corresponding authors: Annika Lange, annika.lange @ vetmeduni.ac.at
Loop: https: //loop.frontiersin.org/people/901494/overview
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