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Science is wild

We recorded 333 high-frequency vocalisations from 13 Holstein-Friesian heifers during oestrus and anticipation of feed (putatively positive), as well as denied feed access and upon both physical and physical & visual isolation from conspecifics (putatively negative). We measured 21 source-related and nonlinear vocal parameters and stepwise discriminant function analyses (DFA) were performed. Calls were divided into positive (n = 170) and negative valence (n = 163) with each valence acting as a ‘training set’ to classify calls in the oppositely valenced ‘test set’.

Did you get that? Researchers recorded cows mooing. Horny cows, hungry cows about to be fed, hungry cows not about to be fed and lonely cows. They analyzed them by cow and state of mind (‘valence’ in this context meaning mood). They wanted to know if cows have individual voices, and if those voices remain individually recognizable no matter how the cow is feeling.

Spoiler: they do.

Oddly enough, science is only beginning to explore domestic animals and livestock in this sort of way. I have thunk long and hard about chicken toys, and keeping chickens amused. Not so much for my own flock, which gets regular free range time and a view of the garden when they’re penned up, but I’d like commercial flocks to have happier lives. I like eating chicken and I’d like to feel less shit about that.

Pro tip: ‘animal welfare’ people are the ones trying to make livestock happier. ‘Animal rights’ people are the nutters who think monkeys have human rights and domestic animals are traitors for working with people.

p.s. the cow study was in Australia.


Comment from OldFert
Time: January 15, 2020, 11:55 pm

When I was a kid our cat had kittens. One day one of the kittens was not to be found and the cat started searching, emitting a particular meow. It was like the kitten had a name (or identifying sound) and mom cat was calling for it. Kitten eventually was found, IIRC. Don’t remember ever hearing the cat making the same meow again.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: January 16, 2020, 1:57 am

Stoaty, did you see those micro cattle? I think might complete your little farm.

Comment from Jasonius
Time: January 16, 2020, 6:14 am

This reminds me of a movie, Temple Grandin, had Claire Danes in the titular role & was (is?) available on Amazon Prime. Pretty good flick (coming from someone who never watches stuff like this).

Apparently she was all about making cattle happy & contented during their life, and then knocking their brains out and making steaks. One of the points was, it can be cheaper, easier, and yield better quality meat to raise and process animals that aren’t constantly having their survival instincts activated.

Comment from DurnedYankee
Time: January 16, 2020, 3:29 pm

Did the study mention if it was funded by the US government?
Or do we only fund studies for non binary gender cows and their behaviors in non binary gender cow bars in Argentina?

Actually, dangerous path, we’re going to discover animals do actually have feelings (say it’s not so!) and really don’t want to be sausage.

The old ‘life goes on, animals is for eatin’ philosophy is long since replaced with the “animals are people and food comes from the grocery store” culture.

Just wait till they can meter the response a head of lettuce has as it’s being cut from the stalk.

Comment from BJM
Time: January 16, 2020, 8:25 pm

The neighbors across the road recently put two Holstein drop calf steers in to graze a front paddock. They bawled for a few days and was pretty heartrending. However since I’m buying beef from the neighbor, I calls them T-bone and Sirloin.

I’m afraid the only way you can get 100% guilt free chicken is to buy locally from a farm that keeps and harvests them humanly. The lady I buy eggs from also sells 14 wk old Cornish Cross pullets for meat, you can buy them alive or they will process them if you order a dozen. Like eggs, they taste sooo much better than store bought.

@Durned I can attest to the fact that when harvesting a carrot patch the first few come out really easy, the rest not quite so. Coincidence?

Comment from DurnedYankee
Time: January 16, 2020, 9:05 pm

@BJM – we could wait and get funding, or you could try the next harvest starting from the center to see if the patch itself is the difference.

I’d try it, but I’ve NEVER been able to grow, well, pretty much anything except Cilantro, and weeds.

Comment from BJM
Time: January 17, 2020, 12:06 am

@Durned: Our valley has sandy alluvial soils chock full ‘o rocks and pebbles. I tried raised beds and the gophers ate the ends that grew through the gopher wire and/or the wire stopped normal growth. So after a few seasons of gnawed stubby, forked and crooked carrots I grow them in 40 gal food grade tubs, the kind used for feeding horses, the soil is loose & fluffy and I was kidding. ;>)

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