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The Mootrix: Farmers give cows VR headsets to improve mood

Image credit: Dreamstime

According to Moscow’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, farmers near Moscow have been using virtual-reality (VR) headsets in an effort to boost their cows’ moods and milk production.

Farmers at the RusMoloko farm in Moscow’s Ramensky district worked with vets and tech experts to modify VR headsets to fit the head of their cows. The VR headsets showed a simulation of a pleasant environment (a “unique summer field simulation program”) with colours tuned to suit bovine vision; cows are more sensitive to red and less sensitive to greens and blues.

Cow wearing VR goggles

Moscow Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Image credit: Moscow Ministry of Agriculture and Food

The farmers hoped to give the cows more pleasant surroundings than their farm and improve their mood. According to a statement from the Ministry, farmers around the world have experimented with different methods for keeping their cows calm, including installing machines to massage the cows in their stalls, maximising free movement with automated systems, and even playing relaxing classical music.

According to the statement, an initial test of the VR simulation reduced the cows’ anxiety and improved their overall contentment. The farmers are planning a more comprehensive and long-term study to confirm whether the use of VR could also affect the volume and quality of their milk; previous research has suggested that the mood of cows can affect their milk production, potentially because serotonin plays a role in the regulation of calcium before lactation begins.

“Examples of dairy farms from different countries show that in a calm atmosphere, the quantity, and sometimes the quality, of milk increases markedly,” a (translated) statement said, citing these studies.

The farmers plan to expand the VR project further if they see encouraging results from the second study.

Animal rights campaigners may question whether adapting and buying specialised VR headsets for dairy cows is more cost-effective and humane than simply allowing them time roaming in fields (or even phasing out the dairy industry altogether).

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