Prior studies have shown that cows use different moos to express different feelings. And it turns out, they go through a lot of different feelings when they're going through puberty.
A new study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science sought to improve cattle farming practices by uncovering more information on the personalities of dairy cows at different points in their lives. "Our study identified a period of inconsistency in personality traits over puberty," Nina Von Keyserlingk, a professor of animal welfare at the University of British Columbia in Canada, told the Guardian. Cows experience mood swings from changing hormones, just like human teenagers.
Researchers corralled cows at the ages of one month, three months, one year, and two-and-a-half years, and observed their behaviors in a test area. Researchers looked at how cows changed their behavior when introduced to new people and things. They found that cows have pretty stable personalities in childhood and adulthood, which is consistent with prior studies. The teenage years are a different story.
At around 12 months, the cows became teenagers and behaved like it. Some days, hormonal cows feel shy and just want to be left alone. On other days, they'll nuzzle up to humans as if they weren't just a hormonal monster. Some cows became attention-seeking, and others grew solitary. Researchers believe that the changes in personality were caused by puberty hormones.
Once the cows started lactating, they chilled out and grew out of whatever phase they were going through.
Prior studies have found how the feelings of cows affect milk production. Stressed cows tend to eat less, grow slower, and produce less milk. They also have weaker immune systems. By learning how the personalities of cows shift in puberty, scientists hope they will have more insight into how to improve animal health and farming practices.
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"Our overall goal is to improve the lives of animals on farms," Heather Neave, who worked on the study, told the Guardian. "Ideally, in the future, management practices would be tailored to the individual rather than the herd, so that all calves and cows have an opportunity to thrive on the farm and reach their full productive potential."
So if you visit a farm and see one cow standing in the corner, writing in its journal and blasting angsty music, just know that it's going through a phase.
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