• Kate Ayers

Cows have communication cues, too

Farmers may soon be able to better understand their cattle’s needs by listening to individual “voices.”

Researchers from around the world have shown that cows express themselves through characteristic lowing during emotional situations, a December University of Sydney release said.

In the study, scientists observed a herd of 18 Holstein-Friesian heifers over five months. Researchers discovered that cows express individual vocal cues in positive and negative conditions, the release said.

"We found that cattle vocal individuality is relatively stable across different emotionally loaded farming contexts,” Alexandra Green, a PhD student from the university’s school of life and environmental sciences, said in the release. Green consulted other experts from Australia, France and Italy.

"We hope that, through gaining knowledge of these vocalizations, farmers will be able to tune into the emotional state of their cattle, improving animal welfare.”

Positive contexts were during estrus and just before feeding. The cattle expressed negative emotions during limited feed access and isolation from the herd, the release said.

The full study is published in the December edition of the journal Scientific Reports.

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