Cows Are Being Put in VR Headsets to Produce Better Milk
It's not just humans who are looking to escape the real world and enter a virtual one, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Moscow Region. A farm in Russia has teamed up with the government department to see if they can combat winter depression and boost milk output by putting VR headsets on cows.
According to the BBC, the VR headsets have been adapted for the "structural features of cow heads" and the cows are being shown a "unique summer field simulation program" to help them stay happier throughout the harsh Russian winter.
Moscow's Ministry of Agriculture and Food stated in a press release that there's research to show that cows produce more milk when they're happier.
And according to research by scientists at Northampton University, cows are incredibly emotional animals. The research found that cows have "best friends" and get stressed when separated.
Calves have even been shown to experience advanced emotions like depression and anxiety following traumatic events like being separated from their mother or having their horns removed.
So it's not difficult to believe that being locked in a shed all winter could lead to some upset cows.
According to the department's statement, the experiments took place at RusMoloko farm near Moscow. Preliminary results showed that the VR headsets boosted "the overall emotional mood of the herd".
“Experts noted reduced anxiety and improved overall emotional mood in the herd. Examples of dairy farms from different countries show that in a calm atmosphere, the quantity, and sometimes the quality, of milk increases markedly," the statement read.
They also noted that local farms are already playing classical music to cows during the winter months to boost their spirits. That already "has a positive effect on milk flow.”
Researchers will continue the experiment in a long-term study, and the developers are reportedly happy to expand the project to other farms if it proves successful.
Verge did raise some concerns over the experiment, noting that it's been run by the Russian dairy industry news site known as Milknews rather than a university. But that doesn't seem to have stopped some social media users from getting behind the idea.
One Twitter user imagined the cows hanging out in a video game.
While another joked: "Did someone already make the joke about cows watching moo-vies? ... I'll show myself out."
Other users have raised concerns with the project, with one noting: "Why not just treat them nicely, give them more space, surroundings & stop forcing them to produce. I mean, just saying."