My brother-in-law Rick is a newshound, and an excellent source of Pink Slip fodder. A couple of weeks ago, he slipped me a copy of The New York Times Sunday Magazine for December 13th, which I had missed – largely because I read the NYT online and, thus, miss out on the full NYT Sunday experience of meandering through everything.
As Rick had assured me I would, I found this particular edition, a roundup of research tidbits, to be a complete and
udder utter trove of blog post ideas.
Starting with the brief article on a study of British dairies that appeared last year in the journal Anthrozoös.
The study found that cows with names produced, on average, 6% more milk a year – about 258 liters than cows without. That translates into a lot of moo-la.
Aside from the fact that reading this article has inserted the loathsome tune Been Through the Desert on a Horse with No Name – just possibly the worst oldie of all time - in my brain, I found it of great interest.
But speaking of horses, for whatever reason, they do tend to have names.
Roy Rogers had Trigger. Dale Evans had Buttermilk. Gene Autry had Champion. I’m sure my favorite Cartwright brother – Adam, the brainy one – had a horse with a name. I just don’t know what it was. Probably something brainy like Plutarch or Thoreau.
In much the same way that horses have names, the transportation mode that replaced them – that would be the car – often have names, as well. I learned to drive Black Beauty (curiously, a horse name), which was replaced after a while by the far less reliable Green Hornet.
Cows, on the other hand…
Well, I guess fewer of us have day to day direct contact with the bovine than we do with the equine. Even I, a complete city girl who has never been astride a mount that wasn’t wooden, painted, and going around in a circle while calliope music plays, tends to run into an occasional mounted police horse, horse on parade, or horse hauling tourists around in a flower bedecked buggy.
As for run ins with cows, not since I was a child have I been anywhere near one.
Although I am a life-long city girl, the neighborhood where I grew up in Worcester had a weird little country pocket in it, and the pocket contained a cider mill and a working farm. With geese and cows.
Once in a while, one of the cows escaped and ran up our street. (“Hide, hide, the cow’s outside.”) Then there was the winter of The Great Cow Freeze, when the cows froze to death, standing in place, in their pasture, and had to be bulldozed down by the city health department.
I have no idea whether those cows had names, as we weren’t friendly with the farmer – Grandma Griggis (sp?) – who was always yelling at kids who got anywhere near her cow pasture, which was hard to avoid, as it abutted the pond where we skated.
Anyway, the only cow I knew that had a name was Elsie, the Borden’s cow who, presumably, was giving more mill than a run-of-the-mill cow with no name. That is, when she wasn’t sporting around with her husband, Elmer, who was Vice President in Charge of Glue-All. Ever wonder how Borden milk products ended up inventing Glue-All. Those cows couldn’t have been all that contented. Or maybe Glue-All’s what you get when you send a bull to do a cow’s work.)
Back to the Bessy, Bossy, Daisy, and Maybell herd.
According to Catherine Douglas, the researcher behind the named cow study, naming:
…reflects the human’s attitudes toward the cows, and therefore how they behave around them.
In other words, we name that which we, if not exactly love, have some degree of affection toward and communication with. Making them more content. And, in the case of cows, in more of a giving mode.
There is, of course, a counterargument to the naming of cows, which, in the article, is offered up – in that ‘on the other hand’, let’s give everybody equal time way – by a mass-dairy operator, who runs a milk factory with 2,200 cows. No science behind her comment, so we don’t know whether her cows give more or less. But, for her cows, “Everyone has an ear tag with a number.”