New Study Confirms That Mother Cows Have Individual Calls For Their Calves

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Understanding that mother cows have unique calls for each of their calves changes the story we tell ourselves when we eat their meat, does it not?

Studies confirm there is a profound level of communication that is happening between mother and baby.  Emotions which, although, not expressed verbally, are expressed vocally.  What does this mean? I believe it means that this once assumed theory, now proven a fact, suggests something that we can’t simply turn away from.

How can we justify slaughtering a creature that is extremely emotionally intelligent, has feelings and concern for their young, and can display this clearly for us to observe? Shouldn’t they be cared for and protected, appreciated and loved? When a baby calf is separated from its mother, the calf cries incessantly, and the mother yells and moans in total distress.

This is also a huge problem in the dairy industry. It isn’t simply slaughtering for meat alone.

Ciaran Moran, a journalist for agriland.ie as well as a partner in a beef and sheep farm in Roscommon, investigated this very issue and from his recent article, we discover:

A team from The University of Nottingham and the Queen Mary University of London spent ten months studying the ways cows communicate with their young, carefully examining acoustic indicators of identity and age.

They identified two distinct maternal ‘calls’. When cows were close to their calves, they communicated with them using low-frequency calls. When they were separated – out of visual contact – their calls were louder and at a much higher frequency. Calves called out to their mothers when they wanted to start suckling. And all three types of calls were individualized – it was possible to identify each cow and calf using its calls.

It has long been thought that cows use individualized calls to communicate with each other, but this study confirms the theory – and identifies particular types of mother-offspring contact calls in cattle.

The researchers studied two herds of free-range cattle on a farm in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. Recordings were made using highly sensitive equipment, gathering so much data it took another year to analyze.

Dr. Mónica Padilla de la Torre led the research while at The University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences.

“The research shows for the first time that mother-offspring cattle ‘calls’ are individualized – each calf and cow have a characteristic and exclusive call of their own. The acoustic analysis also reveals that certain information is conveyed within the calf calls – age, but not gender,” she said.  

“By investigating vocalizations in behavioral contexts outside of mother-offspring communication, further research could reveal vocal indicators of welfare – and influence change in animal care policies.”

As more and more experts, veterinarians, animal advocates, and specialists explain their observations and studies of massive importance, the voices grow louder and more fervent to protect these sentient beings while providing them with the surroundings, safety, and medical care they deserve.

I think we can all agree after learning the close relationship that these animals have with one another that adopting a plant-based diet is the best choice for all of us.

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