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Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Bovine Entertainment
A few days ago I was listening to a news broadcast in the car.   At the end, as the broadcasts often do, they included a light piece, this time about a farm that had begun playing classical music to their cows.   The farmerís daughter, experimenting with various forms of music, had been noting the output of milk from the cows, depending upon the music played.
She found that classical music produced the best results as far as milk production was concerned, and that the increase in production was so many hundreds of pounds.   I donít remember the actual figures but it seems to me, thinking back, that it was at least equivalent to the increase achieved by giving the cows the bovine growth hormone, a hormone most farms are using now for increased milk output.
This Sunday evening, I was driving out into the countryside.   I had found a narrow lane to drive along, and hopefully stop so that I could eat the long role Iíd just bought at a store.   The lane was only suitable for one car to drive down, but there were spaces at various distances between the hedges where it was possible to pull over and allow a car to pass.   I found a place to park.   It was a space in front of a gate to a field
There were some cows in the field that I didnít take much notice of.   I switched off the car, pulled the seat back, and took out the roll, some bottled water and potatoe chips that Iíd brought.   It was a warm evening so I leaned over pulled down the window next to the field, keeping my window, the drivers window shut, in case a car came along, so I wouldnít be bothered with the noise.

Turning on the radio, the classical music station came on.   I usually tune to the commercial classical station because they play more music and have less talking, except for the commercials of course, which are kept in moderation.
As I was eating I noticed some of the cows were getting closer.   With red-brown spots on white coats, these I noticed were not de-horned.   They were in fact, some Ayrshireís, at least that is what I believe, though Iím not an expect on cows and they didnít have tags on them.   But they did have the long gracefully curved horns that train upward, that sweep over the head.
There were probably 20 large cows slowly coming towards me.   It was obvious they were not interested in me, much more interested in the new succulent early summer grass they were cropping as they slowly moved along.   They came quite close to the new gate that was the barrior between them and the car.   Not once did any of them seem to raise their heads, just slowly passing by as they fed on the grass.
A few minutes later however, the situation changed.   Trailing them were a number of calves.   As the cows moved on, the calves started to come towards the gate.   The calves were half-grown, most of them, and were not at all as interested in eating as their mothers were.   They were interested in me.
I was sitting in the driverís seat, the passenger seat was closest to the open window and that was empty, so it gave some space between me and them.   I looked in their faces, looked in their eyes, and they looked in mine.   Doing so, I was able to pick up some of the vibrations, I might say some of the thoughts of these young bovines.   It was obvious in the experience that they likely averaged the aquivalent years in human terms of young humans between perhaps eleven and thirteen.   That was the thought impression I was receiving from them.   Not the same thoughts as one would expect from a human that age, but it was the same emotional quality that they expressed.
They were interested.   They were curious.   But not so much of me, although I was there, and they did know that of course, but of what they were hearing.   This was something quite new to them.   Something that they werenít at all sure about at first, but which did sound strange, and had a pleasant quality.   That was what I was seeing in their faces.
There must have been twenty of these calves, all in various sizes, that began clustering around the gate.   After a time some of the larger calves moved to the north of the gate.   But a few of the midsize ones remained.   This seemed to stop the larger calves from moving any further, and they stationed themselves along the stone wall that was just above the gate, just standing there looking at the car, at me, and listening of course to the music.   I had by this time turned the sound up, not loud enough that it bothered my ears, but loud enough that they could hear it clearly.
Iíd long finished the meal, and was frankly enjoying the music myself.   The station were playing short pieces, most of five minuite duration.   I remember one piece was a hymn composed by Igor Stravinsky, an example of his more melodious compositions.
The calves just stayed there.   The small ones, one side of the the gate, the middle sized ones by the gate, and the larger ones just north of the gate.   This must have lasted half and hour.   By this time, I was leaning back, having tilted the seat, with my eyes closed.
It was a most pleasant sensation for me.   Just knowing I was entertaining the calves.   That I was providing something that they had not heard before, and something that they obviously liked.
As usually happens in the affairs of the world, this perfect state couldnít exist for long.   Unbeknown to me, because I had my eyes closed, a couple were walking down the lane, towards the front of car.   It was kind of narrow farm lane, completely out in the country, where people walking wouldnít be expected, but there they were.   I opened my eyes at some point and saw them coming towards me, now only a car length away.
I could see the man was more than interested in why these calves were surrounding one side of the car, the mother cows now long past in this quite large field.   He was having a discussion with the lady he was with, his wife probably, about the situation.   Unfortunately he was not content with talking about it, he then managed to get through the trees and bushes that were in front of the car, getting right up to the stone wall so he could look over it.   Perhaps thinking the calves were not just standing there, but were occupied in some activity on the other side of the wall that he could not see.
That upset everything.
The larger calves, those that he had gotten close to, immediately took off running.   Iíve since checked on the Internet, and discover that a trait of Ayrshireís is their nervousness.   Very nervous, active, and hard to handle at times is how one site describes them.
The larger calves began frantically bumping into each other as they ran away, which upset the midsize and smaller ones.   Within thirty seconds all the calves had disappeared from the immediate vicinity of the gate, running after their mothers, now far distant in the field.
I looked at the man who was looking embarrassed at me as he passed the car.   The woman smiled.   I didnít say anything.
I waited another fifteen minutes wondering if the calves would come back.   They didnít.
It was an experience.   Something that tells me that calves at least do like classical music.   I suspect cows do too, but in the background to their chewing.
Itís very likely that if farmers used this form of entertainment for their producers, they would achieve some wonderful benefits.   They may even achieve the same production as they do now giving the cows the bovine growth hormone, which is known to not benefit the cows, and I suspect not us.
posted by kewe   12:29 PM
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