I used to be a little embarassed by the fact that many of our farm animals have names. So far most of our hens have managed to remain nameless, as have all of our honeybees. But the goats, cows, pigs, roosters and a few select hens, like the dogs and cats, all have names. Peyton and Cherie are responsible for most of the names. In fact, I’m sure that if Peyton could tell them apart, she would have begun naming the bees. I discouraged the practice at first. After all, it was a little disconcerting to be on a first name basis with an animal destined for the freezer. And it just made us seem, well, unprofessional. But there was no preventing it. As Cherie likes to say, “Animals are people too.”
But maybe the practice of naming farm animals isn’t so “unprofessional” after all. Last week CNN reported that a study out of Newcastle University in England reports that English dairy farmers who name their cattle, and call them by name, have significantly higher yields of milk than those farmers who leave their cows nameless.
“Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention,” Catherine Douglas of the university’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development said in a news release. “By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal’s welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production.”
I was excited when I saw the report, and anxious to tell Cherie that there is scientific value to naming the animals. So I forwarded the article to her. Her response was a bored, “nothing I didn’t already know.”