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We all know that music has the power to comfort us when we are frazzled or distressed. Can it do the same for animals? In 2001, University of Leicester researchers decided to test this by exposing dairy cows to different genres of music. They discovered that certain types of music helped cows produce 3% more milk than those that only heard the jarring sounds of milking machines.
While that was certainly great news, nobody ever bothered to specify what songs made the cows most happy. That was what New York-based agriculture magazine Modern Farmer set out to investigate in 2014.
The journalists began by sifting through the 2001 University of Leicester study to search for songs that had made the cattle most productive. They also interviewed dairy farmers across the country to get anecdotal evidence of the music that worked best for them.
What they found was that similar to humans, cows have a varied taste. Some prefer soulful music while others have a penchant for classical. Based on their findings the magazine released two playlists that they believe will be welcomed by most dairy cows.
One comprises songs like REM's "Everybody Hurts" Aretha Franklin's version of "What a Difference a Day Makes" and Simon and Garfunkel's epic "Bridge Over Troubled Water".
The other, includes classical hits like Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony" and Mozart's "Concerto for Flute and Harp in D Major." The songs that made neither list were sonically abrasive tunes like rap and techno songs that appear to disturb cows rather than calm them.
As it turns out, music is not the only thing that dairy cows enjoy. A few years ago actors in Kent, England decided to see if the animals liked Shakespeare by performing "The Merry Wives of Windsor" to a local herd. Sure enough, their milk output increased measurably.
As to why music and Shakespearean comedies help the dairy cattle? Researchers say that the hectic and noisy environment in industrial milking facilities can be extremely stressful for cows. As a result, the release of oxytocin, the hormone that is central to the milking process, is slowed, leading to less milk production. They believe music helps the animals to relax and keep calm. So the next time you visit a dairy farm don't be surprised to see the cattle jamming to their favorite beat. After all "great milk comes from happy cows!"