Talking to animals 'a big part' of farm life
It's not just Dr Dolittle who talks to the animals. It seems Westcountry farmers routinely enjoy a chat with their livestock too.
According to a survey by the RSPCA, the gentle background of a cosy conversation is not the only thing heard around the farmyard as most soft-hearted farmers admit to playing music or the radio to their animals.
Radio stations Heart FM and BBC Radio 2 were the favoured choices, although some farmers said their animals enjoyed the music of American rockers Aerosmith or rap artist Eminem.
The survey, which is published to mark Farm Animal Week, found that 51% of farmers in the South West play music or the radio to their animals, while two thirds enjoy an – albeit one-sided – conversation.
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Hot topics to chew the fat over include the weather, how they or their animals are feeling, telling them how lovely they look, issues to do with the farm and general idle chit-chat as if speaking to a pet or another person.
Most farmers say they believe it makes their animals more relaxed, calm and content.
West Dorset-based farmer David Tory, said his herd of cows were certainly better off with a little TLC.
"Put simply, a stressed and unhappy cow won't drop her milk but we never have that problem with our girls," he said. "The secret to their happiness and good production is not only giving them the best care we can, under the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme, but tuning into the local radio or Planet Rock at milking time.
"The cows love a bit of Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones. It makes them chilled out and relaxed and that's what produces great milk.
"And as for chatting to our animals, we never stop. It helps us build a trusting relationship with them and it makes us feel happy and relaxed too, which can only be a good thing for everyone's welfare."
RSPCA farm animal scientist Dr Marc Cooper said talking to livestock may sound daft, but there was a clear welfare message.
"The farmers said that their animals are more content, relaxed and calm when they interact with them in this way," he said.
"Like our pets, farm animals are intelligent, sentient beings and respond well to positive interaction. And just as we communicate to animals, they too communicate with us and can actually tell us a lot about themselves and how they are feeling by the way they behave."
To help farmers listen more effectively to their animals, the charity is to launch a welfare tool kit. Dr Cooper said it was a "back to basics" approach about "doing what good stock-keepers do best – looking at and listening to their animals to measure how well and happy they are."