The dairy industry organisation ran a Milk Smart seminar near Palmerston North at a dairy farm, and about 20 people went to find out more about cow senses.
“Think from a cow’s point of view,” said Murray Holt from DairyNZ
“A fearful cow makes adrenaline and that stops her letting down her milk. if a cow is upset, even when she is calm, it takes half an hour for her to be ok.”
Holt told farmers calm cows produced 4 per cent to 14 per cent more milk.
He said all domesticated cows came from 70 auroc cattle, and they were prey animals.
“Even though we have bred a quieter cow, they still have the basic instincts of being a hunted animal.”
Holt said cows had social interactions with other animals.
“They have friends and remember family. They are curious. if a sick TB possum crosses their paddock what do they do? Go over and investigate, and smell it. Sheep run away. Cows also have moods and emotions. They are intelligent.”
He said a cow’s sense of smell was better than humans, and they could smell other animals eight kilometres away.
“They can smell the urine of other cows, and if a cow is afraid it shows in the urine and other cows know. They also use smell to recognise other cows in the herd, and they use their sense of smell to recognise you.”
Holt said cows had two or three times as many taste buds as humans and could hear higher frequencies than people.
“Don’t have the radio on full in the cow shed. If a cow can’t hear, it would be like she is wearing a blindfold.”
He said cows could see more widely than people, with a 330 degree vision. A cow had 30 degrees at the back which she could not see. In contrast, people can see 170 degrees.
“But we work behind a cow in her blind spot. She can’t see us, and often when the [milking] cups go on a cow, she jumps. She only knows you are there because she can hear you.”