Cows with names produce more milk


A university published a study a few weeks ago with a fascinating result. Probably because that university is in Newcastle, England, and the subject was dairy farming, it received little notice in North America.

Researchers asked 516 British dairy farmers how they treated their cows. They found that farmers who called their cows by name got more 500 more pints of milk annually from them.

Farmers swear it isn't simply a matter of giving the animal an I.D. You can't hang a plate reading "34927943" around a cow's neck and hope for the same result. Instead, you merely have to treat them like individuals to get that extra bit of production out of them. One farmer reported referring to his herd as his "ladies."

Some scientific observers, those outside the study, derided the results as flawed. It's certainly true that there are a number of indisputable ways to get more than 500 pints of milk out of a cow, including pumping it with hormones and taking its calf away right after it starts lactating. Calling a cow Daisy or Bessie, though, could easily be seen as the more humane tactic, if it's true. Philosophically speaking, it's just as Machiavellian to intentionally treat a cow with love to get results as it would be to treat it like a machine.

Setting aside the methodology of the study, I tend to believe it's true, because I know that I've felt lackluster about working for lousy managers. This study, even if flawed, plucks a string because it confirms a theory I've had for a long time about bosses. The good ones make their employees want to work for them. The lousy ones make for workers that feel milked. In that, we've all felt a bit like Bessie.