Cookie use on MRCVSonline
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive all cookies.
If you would like to forward this story on to a friend, simply fill in the form below and click send.

Your friend's email:
Your email:
Your name:
 
 
Send Cancel

Study reveals how cows indicate feelings using their ears
cow
"Understanding animal emotions is crucial if we are to improve animal welfare as emotions play a major role in an animal’s mental well-being."

Understanding emotions crucial to improving animal welfare

New research into how to measure the emotional state of cows has suggested that it may be possible to tell how a cow is feeling from the position of its ears. It also reveals that, like our pets, cows display visible signs of pleasure at being stroked.

Nearly 400 observations of 13 cows were taken by scientists at leading animal welfare charity World Animal Protection.

The study showed that when cows were stroked for five minutes, an experience that put the cows into a calm and relaxed state, the cows performed either a backward ear posture or a hanging ear posture, where the ear fell loosely, perpendicular to the head. This contrasts with the more usual position of the ear before and after stroking of either upright or forwards.

Previous studies have suggested that ear position may provide clues to how sheep and pigs are feeling, however this is the first study to look at whether cows display similar traits.

Helen Proctor from World Animal Protection said: “Although these results need further validation using different stimuli, they do indicate that the use of ear postures may provide a quick, non-invasive and low-cost measure to assess the emotional state of dairy cows.
 
“Because emotions are defined as short lasting, it is possible that ear postures may provide both an immediate indicator of the cow’s emotional state and may also be indicative of a longer lasting mood state. 

"Understanding animal emotions is crucial if we are to improve animal welfare as emotions play a major role in an animal’s mental well-being. Research into positive emotions must therefore continue, and reliable indicators of positive emotions need to be developed and applied in practice so that animal welfare can continue to improve.”

It is hoped that the study will be of use to the dairy industry in their programmes and understanding of their cows. 

Can ear postures reliably measure the positive emotional state of cows? is published in Applied Animal Behaviour

Become a member or log in to add this story to your CPD history

Nominations open for National Cat Awards 2020

News Story 1
 UK charity Cats Protection has announced that cat owners can nominate their pets for the National Cat Awards 2020 starting today.

The awards take place annually, celebrating heart warming stories of the positive impact that cats have on their owners. Cat owners have until Thursday 12 March to submit their nominations through the Cats Protection website. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Restriction zone lifted at Suffolk chicken farm

A one-kilometre restriction zone around a commercial chicken farm in mid-Suffolk has been lifted, following the completion of surveillance testing for avian influenza H5N3 with negative results.

Some 27,000 birds on the premises were culled after a veterinary surgeon identified the disease while investigating a fall in egg production. Poultry keepers are urged to take action to reduce the risk of disease in their flock by following government advice on biosecurity.