It is a well-known fact that emotions play a pivotal role in the lives of animals. Various studies and researches have shown that the influence of the environment on the emotions of dairy cows is significant enough, and can be thoroughly interpreted through its behaviour.

The impact of environment on emotions

A fresh and verdurous environment with a daily access to pastures significantly allows them to remain calm. The scientific reason behind this states that green is a cool colour. When the cows are exposed to larger tracts of greenery, in a fresh and open environment, they infer that it is calmness — through the psychological manifestation of the colour green — that is surrounded everywhere. This becomes an important reason why access to an open environment proves to be helpful in the reduction of stress levels in dairy cows. Not only this, but other environmental factors such as housing conditions, space, water and temperature, can cause an impact on the emotions of these cows. Overcrowded places, lack of ventilation, uncomfortable flooring and insufficiency of space causing reduced locomotion have all shown to increase the emotional disturbance in dairy cows.

Factors influencing the emotional health of dairy cows.

1. Human Behaviour

Animals perceive human behaviour towards them acutely. Some studies have convincingly shown that cows are counted in the category of the most sensitive animals. And because of this reason when the cows detect some cruelty in their handling, they get frightened and even reactive through which, their social lives get immensely hampered.

2. Inaccessibility to Open Environments

Inaccessibility to open fields and pastures also disturbs them emotionally. Studies have proved that through frequent cattle grazing, the cortisol levels remain greatly controlled, which eliminates stress from their lives, provides a good yield in terms of milk, and results in overall happiness.

3. Health Issues

Dairy cows like other animals can face a lot of health complications such as Mastitis, Lameness, Reproductive Issues, Respiratory Issues, Heat Stress and Nutritional Deficiencies. All of these can cause a disruption in their emotional state of mind. Through regular health check ups and the maintenance of proper health, cows can continue to have a normal life.

4. Lack of Social Communication

Cows are highly social animals. When they do not get to communicate with other members of their groups, a feeling of social isolation takes place, which causes a high disturbance in their emotional cycle. It is for this reason that the proper access to social communication too helps in the maintenance of the proper emotional lives of these animals.

5. Absence of Bubble

Another aspect in which social behaviour affects the emotional lives of cows is the absence of personal space called bubble in which animals avoid contact with other members of their group as well as with humans. When cows do not find their bubble accessible or available, a tendency of agitation develops in them. As a consequence, this agitation may hamper their emotional sphere significantly.

Interpreting the psyche through behaviour

The emotional state of mind of cows can also be interpreted by their behaviour through different indicators such as, their positioning of ears and eyes; checking their cardiac rhythm; analysing their social behaviour; analysing health conditions and so on. If a cow aligns its ears backwards and shows a greater part of its white eye, it means that it is in a calm and composed state of mind. The quotient for this is 77.3 per cent. Likewise, in its state of calmness, a cow happens to have a heart rate of 55-80 bpm indicating normalcy in every aspect - social and emotional. But suppose a cow turns hostile to other members of the group, and also to humans. In that case, the underlying cause of this hostility may be either a disturbance in its emotions, poor health, or an improper handling exhibited by the handler. This causes a detrimental effect on the health, emotions and productivity of cows.

Measures to establish emotional calm in dairy cows

Establishing a normalcy of emotions in cows is something attainable through following different measures. Some of these include:

1. Taking them to grazing frequently

This allows them to explore an open environment, with green pastures which immensely helps in keeping them emotionally normal. It also keeps them physiologically healthy and active.

2. Allowing them to communicate socially

Social interaction among other members of their group helps in better communication and through this it keeps the maintenance of emotional and social health in a better way.

3. Handling them with care and compassion

Humans must handle these dairy cows with tenderness and compassion keeping in mind that they also understand emotions like us, and expect fair treatment towards them.

4. Improving the standards of farm keeping

For a dairy cow, a farm happens to be its house. And if the conditions of the house aren’t favourable, this may cause a disturbance in their quality of life. So, to keep the farm conditions favourable becomes indispensable.

5. Stroking

Studies have shown that stroking is also a way to restore the emotional health in cows as this develops a bond of friendship between humans and animals, and eliminates the fear for the former, in the latter.

It must be remembered that even cows possess emotions like us human beings, and that even they understand what’s bad and good like we do. For this reason, we must always ensure to have a bond of friendship and trust with the animals.

The author is director with Sterling Agro Industries Limited ( Nova Dairy Products)