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Cows are incredibly loving and doting parents to their calves. Mother cows form a bond with their calves in a matter of second after birth. But, unfortunately, cows in the dairy industry rarely get to keep their calves. After the calf is born, the mother is hooked up to a milking machine and her baby is taken away – often sent to become veal or beef. Mother cows will mourn for their babies and moo incessantly in the days following their separation. While it was assumed this cry was simply an expression of the cow’s pain, new research shows that cow’s moos have very specific meanings.

A team of researchers from The University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University London, spent 10 months studying calves and their mothers to see how they communicate. What they found was that cows have distinct acoustic indicators that convey age and identity. When mother cows were close to their calves, both would communicate using low frequency calls. Further, when calves were out of sight, they would call to one another with a higher frequency call. When the calf was ready to suckle, there is yet another call used.

What is more amazing is that each individual mother/calf pair have a special call in these frequencies, so it is possible for a herd of mothers to distinguish between the calls of their own calves. It makes you wonder if distressed dairy cows are really calling out to their calves – seems highly plausible.

According to Dr. Mónica Padilla de la Torre of 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. Acoustic analysis also reveals that certain information is conveyed within the calf calls – age, but not gender.”

Incredible, isn’t is? Cows are incredibly intelligent and emotional animals, it’s no wonder that their modes of communication are so specialized and developed. Makes you really rethink the way we look at cows, perhaps knowing what we do, it is time to afford them the lives and respect they deserve.

Image source: Heather/Flickr

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