A SCIENTIST from Northampton has found the best way to keep cows happy is to make sure they are not split up from their friends.
Animal welfare expert, Krista McLennan is currently studying for a PhD through The University of Northampton and is a lecturer at Moulton College.
As part of her PhD studies, she has been monitoring the behaviour of cows to work out the impact of “short term isolation” on them.
Her tests saw cows separated from their herd for 30 minutes at a time, either with a cow who had been identified as one of their “close friends”, or with another cow they did not really know.
During the tests, the cow’s heart rates were monitored to see how they reacted differently when they were kept with friends and strangers.
The 27-year-old said: “If we can encourage farmers to keep an eye out for those cows which like to keep their friends with them it could have some real benefits, such as improving their milk yields and reducing stress for the animals, which is very important for their welfare.”
The scientist said her research had shown cows were very social animals which often formed close bonds with friends in their herd.
She said: “I’ve spoken to a number of farmers who have said they do notice bonds building among their cows and some spending a lot of time together.”
But modern farming practices mean cows are often separated for visits from the vet or by farmers moving their stock around.
Mrs McLennan said: “We know re-grouping cows is a problem, because there’s a high level of stress among animals as they try to integrate into a new group.”
She now hopes her suggestion that cows who like to stay with their friends when they are separated from the herd will be taken on by the dairy industry.
Chairman of the Northamptonshire branch of the National Farmer’s Union, Trevor Foss, said the research could be of real use to dairy farmers.
He added: “I’ve heard people say if you leave the radio on for the cows they’re a lot happier, so there might be something in this too.
“But I suppose cows must be a bit like humans. Some might like to be on their own while others might not.”