By Mordechai Schmutter
With all the problems plaguing society, it’s not often that we get some really good news. But here it is: scientists in England have started a three-year study to find out how cows make friends.
Yes, with each other. Are scientists that lonely?
But it’s about time, right? I didn’t even know that cows have friends. But then, I don’t spend a lot of time observing cows. I see them at the zoo or on the side of the highway for like two seconds as we whiz by, and I spend most of that time trying to point them out to my kids. What do they do with their friends? It’s not like they go jet-skiing. Do they schmooooze? Do they have each other over for meals?
“You want to come over? We’re having grass.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I just had grass.”
“Great. Now what am I going to do with all this extra grass?”
But I bet you’re saying to yourself, “Why can’t I do something important like study cow friendship? And, more importantly, get paid for it?” It’s like we’ve already cured all the world’s diseases and solved all the world’s problems, and now we want to find out how cows can make friends. How about finding out how people can make friends? The lack of cow achdus is not what destroyed the Beis HaMikdash.
Of course, we already know how people make friends. At least kids. Kids choose friends based on age and grade level and whether they can walk to the person’s house on Shabbos. Also, if your parents are friends with their parents, you kind of have to be friends too. Because your parents are going to say, “He’s around your age, go play with him.”
That’s ridiculous. What if kids said that to their parents?
Though sometimes they do. Like when your kids are playing with someone else’s kids, you have to sit there and make conversation with the parent, and you’re thinking, “I would never voluntarily hang out with you. I didn’t choose you. Our kids chose each other, based on no criteria, by the way. They’re the same size.”
For adults, though, it’s harder to make friends. You have to be subtle. If you go over to someone and say, “You want to be friends?” he will probably make up an excuse and leave.
But with cows, we figure that they’re pretty much like kids. “You’re a cow, she’s a cow. Go schmooze!” We assume this with animals all the time. We buy two goldfish or two hamsters, and we assume they’re going to be friends, but just as likely, they’re going to be roommates who hate each other and know they’re both stuck there until the bitter end. (“I can’t believe you. You’re always hogging the wheel and chewing on the bars—both of us have to touch these bars, by the way—and you keep ripping up the newspaper before I get a chance to read it. And stop picking the good stuff out of the trail mix!”)
It doesn’t help, as far as the study goes, that most cows look alike, so you can’t really tell who’s spending time with whom. How do you monitor them? Maybe the researchers will come out onto the field in those two-man cow costumes, and try to make friends.
COW: “Moo yourself. What’s with the zipper?”
But they have a plan. To quote the article I read, “The cows are fitted with special collars that will determine how often and how closely they interact with each other by radio.”
So they’re interacting by radio? I guess they’re not that far behind us, technology-wise. Soon they’ll be interacting by text message.
<“So what do you think of the new cow?”>
<“The uncoordinated one who keeps writing in a notebook and arguing with its lower half? I’m not over the moon about it.”>
But what the article actually means, I’m assuming, is that the cows will wear radio proximity collars so researchers can figure out which ones spend time together.
The scientists have their reasons. They’re conducting the study because of recent scientific evidence that suggests that happier cows give more milk.
Society has kind of known this for years, and the general idea has been to keep them (the cows) well fed and give them room to move around. But then they decided, “What if we made the cows even happier? Wouldn’t that make them give even more milk?”
So ever since then, we’ve been bending over backwards to make cows happy. We’ve given them video games and pizza, and taken them water sliding, but we couldn’t even get them to crack a smile. So now we’re trying other techniques.
You want to make cows happy? Give them money.
Or maybe not. Money doesn’t bring lasting happiness, because the whole fun of money is spending it. And when you do, it’s gone.
So what actually causes happiness? Well, the Gemara says, “Ein simcha ella b’basar v’yayin.” Basar’s maybe not a good idea here, but there’s no reason we can’t give the cows yayin. So some farmers have been doing just that.
But they’ve also been trying other techniques. For example, some farmers have been hiring chiropractors to massage the cows’ backs and their calves. And maybe their calves’ backs and calves. Being a cow is stressful, and sometimes you need a massage. And maybe a facial.
Some farmers, meanwhile, have been playing classical music in their barns to calm the animals. Note that this is the same classical music that scientists say makes babies smarter. Are we trying to make the cows smarter?
But, of course, happiness is relative. There was a recent story—in England, of course—where firefighters had to rescue a cow that was stuck in a tree.
Stuck in a tree? How much wine did it have?
Actually, the tree was at the bottom of an embankment. The cow fell off the road above, and the tree saved its life. The farmer didn’t even know where it went, until someone at the institute said, “Hey, why is there a tracking collar in that tree?”
According to the Reuters article, “The cow was sedated and winched out of the tree by firemen using specialist equipment.” Because, yes, there is specialist equipment for this sort of thing. It happens all the time.
A spokesman for the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service reported, “The vet checked the cow over [using specialist equipment, I believe], and it seemed reasonably happy.”
So happiness is relative, is what I’m saying. We get spoiled, thinking the ground will always be there, but when it’s taken away, that’s all we need back to make us happy. So maybe the way to get more milk is to throw cows into the trees and then rescue them. We’re going to need a lot of specialist equipment. And chiropractors.
But scientists didn’t think of this. What they did think of was good wine, a massage, and some hold music. And, of course, friends. Studies show that the main thing that actually causes people to be happy is our relationships with others. So now they’re studying that in cows.
According to Dr. Darren Croft, a leading expert in the field of cow study (get it? the field? never mind), cows are social creatures, even though they seem to ignore each other and chew the same three bites of food all day.
So the point of the study is to figure out what factors determine whether cows actually have friends, or whether they have acquaintances that they’re friendly with when they run into each other but never see otherwise. And if we figure out how cows make friends, dairy farmers can know how to divide them up. It’s like the principal dividing students at the beginning of the year based on personality: “List the names of three cows you want to be placed with.”
Hopefully, we’re going to get more milk out of this. But then the next scientific question is, How we do make it not go bad so fast? The last thing we need is to produce more milk that we have to drink before the same expiration date. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.