Discerning common carp find music, Morzart’s “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik”, to be precise, stress relieving or inducing depending on how it is played to them. The authors of this study discuss the possible use of music as a growth promoter or an enrichment tool to improve fish welfare in intensive fish farming. This fascinating application of the art form prompted a quick search of the CAB Abstracts database to examine further uses of music in agriculture. The results are varied and interesting covering many domestic species; cattle, chickens, pigs, guineapigs, guinea fowl, koi carp…
Most studies of applying music to animal husbandry involve dairy cattle; the playing of music in dairy milking sheds appears to increase milk yield, however, there is argument as to whether this is due to the calming affect on cattle or stockmen. Other researchers found that they could separate a small group of cattle by training them to discern between two pieces of music, though the study fell short of recommending practical application.
It appears that music has little affect on the stress effects of castration and weaning on piglets, but pigs have rhythm, and those played fast, rhythmical music gain weight more slowly than those exposed to music of a more genteel pace. Chickens do not appear to be great music lovers, one study demonstrating increased fearfulness in those exposed to a music stimulus, but another study showed that domestic hens had less aversion to music than to noises generated from a water-hose, other poultry, or a train.
Although taking a light hearted approach to the subject here, any study exploring imaginative ways to improve animal welfare has to be admired, especially if this application might also improve efficiency of production. Furthermore, this whole body of work intriguingly adds to the mystery of music and how it appeals to both our intellect and more primitive emotions. The CAB Abstracts database is full of surprises.
The taste for Morzart of common carp, albeit in short bursts, and this little exploration into the world of music and animal husbandry led to musing whether different results could be obtained with more appropriate pieces. No doubt readers will have their own theories but surely domestic fowls would respond favourably to “There’s nobody here but us chickens”. Other notables worth a try; “Home on the range”, “Five little fishies”, and who could forget Gershwin’s classic, “I love you porky”. Perhaps the lack of application of music in plant production is due to the dearth of appropriate tunes; the only one springing to mind being Elton John’s green salad anthem, “Rocket Man”.
Some interesting references…
Papoutsoglou SE, et al., 2007. Effect of Mozart’s music (Romanze-Andante of “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik”, sol major, K525) stimulus on common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) physiology under different light conditions. Aquacultureual Engineering, 36: 61-72.
Tsukada H, et al., 2004. Separation of the Japanese Black female cattle sub-group by the auditory guidance using discrimination learning. Grassland Science, 50(4): 349-354.
Cloutier S, et al., 2000. Can ambient sound reduce distress in piglets during weaning and restraint? Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science; 3(2): 107-116.
Uetake,-K, 1999. Study on cognitive and learning abilities of dairy cattle and their application for herd management. Research Bulletin of the Hokkaido National Agricultural Experiment Station, (170): 9-43.
Albright JL, Arave CW, 1997. The behaviour of cattle. Wallingford,UK: CAB International, viii + 306.
Campo JL, et al., 2005. Effects of specific noise and music stimuli on stress and fear levels of laying hens of several breeds. Applied Animal Behaviour Science; 91(1/2): 75-84.
Zhuchzhu Ts, Andonov K, 1995. The effect of functional music on the milk yield of cows. Mekhanizatsiya I Elektrifikatsiya Sel’ skogo Khozyaistvam, 1995; (5/6): 19-20.
Ekachat K, Vajrabukka C, 1994. Effect of music rhythm on growth performance of growing pigs. Kasetsart Journal, Natural Sciences, 28(4): 640-643.
McAdie TM, et al., 1993. A method for measuring the aversiveness of sounds to domestic hens. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 37(3): 223-238.