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Do Farmers Give Their Animals Names?

An anxious cow is never going to be a top milk producer. For one thing, studies have shown that stress hormones such as cortisol actually reduce milk production. So down on the farm, it’s better for everyone if the cows are happy and calm.

That’s what researchers found in when they surveyed 516 farmers in the United Kingdom about how they treat their animals. The study found that dairy farmers who give their cows names and talked to them reassuringly reported higher milk yields over an animal’s 10-month lactation period, when compared to cows without names.

Happier cows, more milk:

  • The British researchers compared production from the country's National Milk Records with the survey responses of 516 dairy farmers to see if there was an association between yield and cow naming. The results appeared in Anthrozoos, a British journal dedicated to the "interactions of animals and people."

  • Dairy farmers who gave their cows names got 2,105 gallons (7,938 liters) out of their cows, compared with 2,029 gallons (7,680 liters) per 10-month lactation cycle. Forty-six percent of the farmers said they named their cows.

  • "If you call a cow by name, it indicates that perhaps you talk to her more, perhaps you consider her more of an individual, perhaps you have more of a one-to-one relationship," explained cattle behaviorist Catherine Douglas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do farmers typically name their livestock?

Research shows that cows that are given names produce up to 5% more milk than those without names.
Research shows that cows that are given names produce up to 5% more milk than those without names.

While it's more common for pets to receive names, some farmers do name their animals, especially on smaller or hobby farms where there are fewer animals to manage. Naming can help farmers create a bond with their animals, which can be beneficial for their welfare. However, on larger, industrial farms, animals are often identified by numbers or tags for efficiency.

What are the benefits of naming farm animals?

Naming farm animals can enhance the human-animal bond, leading to better care and potentially improved health outcomes for the animals. According to studies, such as those referenced by the Animal Welfare Institute, positive interactions, which can include naming, may reduce stress in animals, leading to higher productivity and better quality of life.

Is there any impact on the meat quality from animals that have been named?

There is no direct scientific evidence linking the naming of animals to meat quality. However, the practice of naming could be part of a broader approach to animal welfare. Better welfare can lead to less stress, and according to the American Meat Science Association, lower stress levels in animals can result in better meat quality due to factors like reduced cortisol levels.

How do farmers decide which animals to name?

Farmers may choose to name animals based on various factors, such as the animal's personality, distinctive markings, or their role on the farm. Breeding animals, show animals, or those kept as pets are more likely to be named. Animals raised for production on larger scales are less likely to receive names due to the sheer number of individuals.

Does naming animals affect their slaughter or sale for meat?

Naming farm animals can sometimes make it emotionally challenging for farmers when it comes time to slaughter or sell them for meat. This emotional attachment can lead some farmers to keep named animals as permanent residents or breeding stock. However, many farmers balance this attachment with the economic realities of running a farm.

Are there any cultural or regional differences in the practice of naming farm animals?

Cultural and regional differences can significantly influence whether farmers name their animals. In some cultures, animals are considered part of the family and are more likely to be named. In contrast, in regions with large-scale, intensive farming practices, naming is less common due to the impersonal nature and high turnover of animals.

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    • Research shows that cows that are given names produce up to 5% more milk than those without names.
      Research shows that cows that are given names produce up to 5% more milk than those without names.