• By The Financial District

Turkish Farmer Swears That VR Headsets, Classic Music Raise Cow Milk Yield

A farmer in central Turkey places virtual reality headsets on two of his cows each day, before turning on some classical music in the barn. That gets them in the mood for milking, he says, adding that Mozart or Beethoven have worked best so far, Ergin Hava reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) recently.

Photo Insert: One of Kocak's cows wearing a VR headset

This might have been the stuff of sci-fi films of the past. Instead, these days, technology is changing the world of agriculture almost as fast as it is affecting people's lives.

The sights and sounds are part of a new routine created by Izzet Kocak, who breeds cows in Aksaray, in order to encourage his animals and increase their milk yield. The results are promising, Kocak told dpa.

Each cow chills out to the soothing scenes of a meadow with the special goggles. This, coupled with the music, has led them to produce an extra 5 liters more milk every day since last week, he says.

"We saw that anxious animals calmed down as they reacted very positively to VR sets and classical music which we play all day at a low volume," Kocak says. The cows are used to the routine and may even look forward to it, he says. "I feel like they can't wait to chill out with the goggles every day."

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But there has been criticism of the experiments too, with some raising ethical questions about the implications of productivity gains through the use of virtual reality, rather than ensuring the real conditions for animals are optimal.

The method should not mean locking animals up in cages which would then amount to "torture" and violate animal rights, said Ahmet Kemal Senpolat, from the local animal rights group Haytap.

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Kocak first heard of the approach after reading that farmers were trying it out in Russia. The Russian Ministry of Agriculture tested VR headsets on cows some two years ago. Now, Kocak downloads images of green fields with birds chirping in the background onto the special headsets that cost around 2,000 liras ($145).

He hopes the cows can enjoy the feeling of being in a sunny field even when they are in the barn. He plans to expand his approach to three more animals in the near future. He also wants to see how well it works in summer, as well as winter, though he notes that the cows are not always stuck indoors.

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