Happiness is Music in the Dairy

Eighteen months ago a dedicated group of passionate rural people created the Facebook page Ask an Aussie Farmer which has been very widely embraced by both urban and rural communities. I have personally witnessed the commitment of the team as 3 of them are Art4Agriculture Young Farming Champions


Ask an Aussie Farmer 

This question to the team on dairy cows and music caught my eye this morning

Dairy Cows Music

I know a number of scientific studies have been done in this area and had previously read this article Music to my ears by US vet  Anna O’Brien and enjoyed it so thought I would share it with you this morning. (BTW I personally have no problem with country music)  

Music Dairy Cows

Edette Gagné, music director and conductor of the Coast Symphony Orchestra, leads a quartet of classically trained musicians in a performance of Mozart numbers for dairy cows at the Valedoorn Dairy Farm in Agassiz, B.C. See footnote

Music to My Ears by Dr Anna O’Brien

I have a confession to make: I don’t like country music. In fact, I can’t stand country music. This is relevant because a vast majority of the farms I visit play this type of music incessantly. I’ve noticed that most barn radios are connected to the lighting system, so whenever the lights are on, Garth or Reba is pouring his/her heart out, much to my displeasure. Most dairy farms have electricity running in the milking parlour around the clock, so even when the lights are off and it’s not milking time, the sad, sad tales of lost girlfriends, the drinking blues, and the good ol’ days fill the otherwise quiet aisles.

One special exception to this rule is a particular dairy client of mine. A grazing dairy with mostly Holsteins and Holstein-crosses, where the cows are on pasture all year and not fed corn or other concentrated, high carbohydrate grains, this operation plays classical music. And it’s music to my ears.

I find it extremely relaxing to stroll into this dairy, no matter if it is to pregnancy check their cows or repair a prolapsed uterus. Beethoven, Mozart, and Brahms are there to greet me and help out when a particular cow is ornery or a calving just isn’t going well. When asked why they opt to play classical rather than the seemingly standard country music, the dairy farmers just shrug and say they just like classical music better. Me too.

Interestingly, it appears cows may have musical preferences as well. Studies have shown that musical selections have an impact on cow behavior in the milking parlour. One study conducted in 1996 assessed the impact of music on cows’ behavior in a dairy with an automated milking system (AMS), in which the cows herd themselves to the milking machines. This study showed that when music was played specifically during the milking period for a period of a few months, more cows showed up to the AMS than when music wasn’t played at all. In other words, music encouraged more cows to be ready to milk than no music. The abstract of this study does not mention what type of music was played and in my mind, indicates behavior similar to Pavlov’s famous dogs that were trained to salivate at the ring of a bell. These cows associated music with milking and this influenced their physiology.

Even more interesting is a study done in 2001 that showed the tempo of music affects milk production in dairy cows. In this study, slow tempo music, like Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, increased milk production by 3 percent. In contrast, harsher, faster music had no effect on milk production. The theory behind this physiologic response is that faster music increases the cow’s stress level, and increased stress has been repeatedly shown to negatively impact milk production. Other studies have shown that yelling at cows and aggressive herding dogs decrease milk production.

Although this study did not show a decrease in milk production due to fast music, the increase in milk with slower music is significant in my mind. A 3 percent increase in milk over a year is an easy financial gain for the dairy farm — no investment needed, just change your radio station to “easy listening” or “smooth jazz.”

Admittedly, this study didn’t prove that overall, country music is bad for cows, but it does suggest that fast country music is bad for cows. Perhaps I should simply recommend soothing ocean waves or a soundtrack of the pitter-patter of raindrops in the Amazon to all my dairy clients?

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Footnote: The Music Makes More Milk contest, invites members of the public to compose songs for cows in order to naturally increase milk production. According to the association, it is a common observation among dairy farmers that cows respond positively to music. The winning contestant will receive a trip for four to the 55th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. (BC Dairy Association)

Special shout out to all the women in my life

Today is International Women’s Day and there are too many women for me to mention who inspire me

So I would just like to simply use this quote to say thank you to the doers and the supporters who light my fire and keep it burning

‘Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the people who get out of shower, and dry off off and do something about it who make a difference’. Patricia Nolan

I would also like to salute our cows

They inspire me. Every day they produce that affordable nutritious nature’s perfect nutrient cocktail that is milk on our farm for 50,000 Australians

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Thank you cows – the queens of the dairy industry

They are an integral part of our team. They are part of our family. They are like a child you want to give them the best possible life you can afford to give

This is why the $ a lire milk marketing campaign upsets me so much as I feel it completely devalues what our cows do and I believe we all need to reflect on what our definitions of value are when thinking about Australian grown products.

I would also like to say a special thank you to the girls on our team who worked so hard on all those record breaking hot days in January to ensure our cows were comfortable and happy. I was there and I was moved by your super human efforts.

Cows under sprinker

Sprinklers in the dairy – says cow comfort on hot days


Chrissy in the dairy shows the Young Eco Champions how to milk and care for cows on hot days

The girls would like to thank John who arrived with the super cold watermelon just at the right time    

So excited the cows are back

I was so excited when I woke up this morning to see the cows were back and wow what a picture they made.

Clover Hill Dairies the cows are back 

Mystical Jamberoo Valley after the rains

For too many eastern seaboard farmers sadly last week’s rain was a calamity. For us it was like we had won lotto. My office window overlooks this paddock and every 14 to 21 days up until 6 months ago I could reliably look out the window and for three mornings straight watch the cows strip graze their way down the hill. It has been so long since the cows were in this paddock I had almost forgotten how magical it was

As you can see this morning they were already well down the hill and there was no strip grazing fences to be seen as there was only enough grass for just one feed from the whole paddock

But there was grass none the less and it wasn’t long before the water trough beckoned and I could see the gorgeous girls up close and personal

the cows are back

Below in the distance you can see our young girls grazing on the fresh new shoots on one of our lease properties

Clover Hill Heifers

The girls wandered off to the midday milking

Clover Hill stroll to the midday milking

and it was all action – men and machines everywhere 

Hive of activity at Clover Hill

Making the most of every opportunity to grow the next round of lushest, sweetest grass paradise can deliver to produce nature’s perfect nutrient cocktail for 50,000 Australians every day  

Bowling Greens

Maybe even in the not too distant future it will look like this again


and as HT said its just great to feel like you are farming again

Farm Day Oz comes early in Paradise

Young Farming Champion Heidi Cheney has just landed a new job with Pfizer Animal Health and scored the dairy industry as the key area in which she will work with farmers.


Heidi’s mum and daughter Pippa get an early Farm Day OZ experience at Clover Hill Dairies

So where better to get hands on dairy farming experiences – well Paradise of course.


Autumn tones at Paradise

Heidi grew up on her parents beef and sheep farm but her children Hunter and Pippa are like most kids these days they learn where yoghurt comes from through pages of a book or the TV screen .


Pippa and Hunter just aren’t just yogurt fans, they love cheese and milk

So Heidi took the opportunity to bring Pippa and Hunter and her mum Lynne with her  so they could learn first hand where milk comes from. So whilst Heidi worked alongside Nick and Emma to get an inside look at dairy farm and cow management. Pippa and Hunter got friendly with the chooks


First Hunter decided he should collect all the eggs and was eyed off by this rooster


Heidi in the meantime was checking out the dairy


Where she caught up with Emma and they went through our procedures for drenching and vaccinations


Emma has just done an evaluation review of all our procedures with the team to ensure all our information is up to date


She is very pleased that task is almost ticked off


Then it was time for the whole family to see where their milk comes from


Farmer Nick has a soft spot for little kids and enjoys showing them how the dairy works

Heidi and Hunter MG_1832

Then it was off to visit the baby calves and see how the robotic calf feeder works


Pippa and Hunter soon got the hang of it and made great friends with the baby calves


The weather forecast says its going to rain in the next couple of days and so Michael is putting out some nitrogen fertiliser to see if we can get this recently sown pasture to get a wriggle on. Hunter was pretty taken with the really big green tractor.


But then it all got too much and Hunter says its time for a siesta


The sun goes down in the trees.

I enjoyed sharing paradise with Heidi and her family  as will many other faming families with their Farm Day OZ visitors this weekend

I am also pretty confident cows will get due credit for the dairy products in the fridge at the Cheney household from now on  


Paradise through the lens

Yesterday the cows enjoyed the views from the Cooking School paddock


Heading home (above) and enjoying the morning feed (below)


But the day didn’t get off to the ideal start for the cows, the neighbours nor the person who forgot to open the gate to the paddock.

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This is the entrance to the paddock where the cows camped until one of the neighbours saw them and told us

This is the entrance after the manure had been scrapped of the road. Heaven forbid 250 cows waiting to get into the paddock can you imagine the mess.  Less said the better then again as they say in the classics “shit happens”.

The Cooking School paddock you ask?

Yes Clover Hill is very unique. It is part of a dairy centric rural residential subdivision with 12 privately owned blocks ranging from 1 to 100 acres and one of these blocks used to be a five star cooking school. Just as well no cooking lesson were being held today.

Today one of the other neighbours was able to have the pleasure of sitting on their front veranda with the cows almost in their front yard.

Unfortunately John and Jenny did host the cows in their front yard uninvited a few years ago as have most of the neighbours at some stage. But as you can see the garden did recover quite spectacularly


Much to our relief. In fact it was these very agapanthus that took the biggest battering


And the cows were eyeing them off again today but they were disappointed. John has made the fence cow proof thank goodness.

Speaking of the fence – the rock wall made a magnificent backdrop for this photo today


I have a Canon 600D which is their beginner top of the range but I do have the EF 24-105mm lens and this lens can turn even me into a decent photographer

Speaking of photographers John’s nephew is the well known photographer Toby Dixon Now this is photography. Check out his photo shoot with Jonathan Brown, Captain of the Brisbane Lions and Paul Gallen, Captain of the Cronulla Sharks here  http://tobydixon.com/blog/?cat=1

Toby has done some adds for Cadbury’s and a few others at Clover Hill as well

Like this classic

Cadbury 'Smooth' 03

This is Clover Hill’s very own  Mandelyn Skyframe Toni

Back to the amateurs


How’s that view along the backline – might not be in Toby’s league but I am having fun

Growing the milk business

In 2000 our dairy farm was a one man operation milking 80 cows twice daily.

In 2005 our cow numbers had increased to 180 and we moved to milking three times daily

In 2008 we took on a second lease farm and milked a total of 400 cows three times daily

Today we employ ten people and milk 500 cows on two farms

The home farm never ceases to amaze me.

In the last 35 years the amount of land we farm on has stayed the same.

The number of people working and the cows being milked keeps increasing.


Clover Hill cows coming home for milking Boxing Day 2011

In 35 years the dairy has grown from a 6 bale walk thru to a 5 aside herringbone to a 14 aside double up herringbone.


Michael reflects on the milk biz changes in his lifetime

And the milk vat. More than anything I think the milk vat gives the most visual story of the growth of our milk business

This week we installed a 30,000 litre milk vat.

When we installed the 5,000 vat in 1995 we never dreamed we would fill this let alone get to the stage were we filled it twice a day.   Its hard to believe 30 years ago our daily milk production fitted into a 1,000 litre vat.

Its no mean feat getting a 30,000 litre vat up our hill let alone finding enough room to put it at the dairy

The vat would replace two x five thousand litres vats we currently have

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As you can see room isn’t exactly abundant

Milk vat0001 

So the sacrificial lamb was my garden – but all in a good cause

So now we had found the spot.  The next thing was to source a vat, only to find it had to be made in New Zealand and that took 16 weeks. Then it needed 2 cranes and a team of specialists all available on the same day at the same time to make it all happen.

Between the farm team we managed to capture this historic day via mobile phones and camera/video footage.

You can watch the video footage here

and see the photographs here

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Not one but two cranes


The truck driver looked pretty pleased to get it there all in one piece. The trip from the dock wasn’t exactly a walk in the park with the vat shifting quite a bit to one side on the way as you can see

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But its amazing what team work can do

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or at least what Ozzie team work can do. Soon found out half the parts to make it work were still sitting on the dock in NZ

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Something isn’t quite right in paradise

This week the milking cows are taking their morning feed (4am to 12 noon) in the paddocks in front of my house. I so look forward to this part of the grazing rotation which at this time of the year comes around every 14 to 18 days.

Now the cows seem to know I have a new camera and are doing their best to provide the rural idyll but this morning things were a little too perfect.

Firstly there was this


that was fine. Then there was long lingering looks like this


Then there was thousands (never let the facts get in the way of a good story) of looks like this


Quick turn on of the tap at the kitchen sink confirms my suspicions lots of thirsty looking cows means broken water trough. Michael to the rescue once again

You are our hero Michael – shame about the shorts