Thursday, May 13, 2010

Happy Cows, More Milk

Animals and even humans tend to have an innate tendency for collective behaviour, such as herd mentality, birds flock, fish shoal and well, how cows tend to stand up or lie down in synchrony. This review article on the research of Jie Sun et al. at Clarkson University in New York state, talks about the mathematical model for this dynamics and synchronisation in cows.

Just to pluck a portion from the article:
Cows are well know for their collective behavior: they tend to either all lie down or all stand up for example.
Happy cows tend to copy each other. And happy cows are also more productive by various measures such as the amount of milk they produce. Some researchers have even proposed that synchrony be used as a measure of the quality of bovine life.
The new model may help understand this. The model indicates that synchrony does not depend on the strength of coupling in a simple way. In fact, it predicts that an increase in coupling can reduce the level of synchrony.
That will ring a bell with many farmers who keep their cattle indoors during winter. They have long recognised that when cattle are so crowded that there is not enough room for them all to lie down at the same time, productivity drops dramatically. In fact, in some parts of the world there are rules about how much space cattle must have to lie down in.
Moral of the story: To sustain the supply of milk, keep your cows happy and never underestimate cow psychology and the science of it. (This article was interesting to read as I never imagined there were such research topics out there... well, at least I don't think we'll see that in Malaysia).

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