The Ig Nobel Prize in Veterinary MedicineThe suspense ended last night when the 2009 Ig Nobel prizes were awarded at Harvard's Sanders Theater.
For us here at Streamline Training and Documentation, the Veterinary Medicine prize was of particular interest because of its likely applicability beyond the realm of bovines, who were the subjects of the honored research.
Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University in the UK were cited for their study demonstrating that "cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless." You can read the details in the Douglas/Rowlinson paper, "Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production," which appeared in the March 2009 issue of Anthrozoös.1
The finding that addressing cows by name was correlated with enhanced milk production certainly fits my own limited experience with dairy farming, which goes back to visiting a relative's farm in Wisconsin when I was twelve years old. All the cows had names, and they collectively produced a very satisfactory daily poundage of milk.
In fairness, I hasten to add that the farmer's sons, who handled the milking, also played music on the radio for the cows and constantly petted them and encouraged them to "unlax." Also, the cows were carefully fed and otherwise attended to, so, since I have no actual data to examine, it's not entirely clear how much independent weight addressing the cows by name carried in determining milk output.
I'll simply note that there is surely a lesson in the Douglas/Rowlinson study for those interested in promoting human productivity.
1 "Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production," Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson, Anthrozoös, vol. 22, no. 1 (March 2009), pp. 59-69.