A study in cow dynamics


Why does a herd of cows stand or lay down at the same time? Researchers at Clarkson University in New York have worked out a mathematical model to explain the workings behind collective behavior in bovines.

"OK, cool. But, seriously," you may ask, "is that really important?" Actually, yeah.

Happy cows tend to copy each other. And happy cows are also more productive by various measures such as the amount of milk they produce. Some researchers have even proposed that synchrony be used as a measure of the quality of bovine life.

That will ring a bell with many farmers who keep their cattle indoors during winter. They have long recognised that when cattle are so crowded that there is not enough room for them all to lie down at the same time, productivity drops dramatically. In fact, in some parts of the world there are rules about how much space cattle must have to lie down in. The new model could help determine the level of coupling that maintains production.

Technology Review: First mathematical model of cow behavior

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