May 25, 2007 -- On Hans Pieter Sieber's Priegola dairy farm in Villanueva del Pardillo, Spain, the secret to success is not some newfangled technology or machine. Nor is it a time-tested technique or process handed down from generation to generation. Rather it is the dulcet, layered tones of classical music.
And not just any music.
Sieber exposes his herd of approximately 700 heifers to the famous chords, crescendos and cadences of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Once just normal, run-of-the-mill dairy cows, these Friesians now receive the rock star treatment -- listening to soothing music, sleeping on water beds, taking relaxing showers, and even enjoying sessions with an animal psychologist.
Believe it or not, since sending Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp in D Major soaring through their stalls at milking time, Sieber has seen a dramatic shift in the temperament and production of his Daisys and Besses.
Now his herd quietly lines up to be milked, seeming not to mind the poking and prodding that comes with being a dairy cow, and, most notably, producing anywhere from 1 to 6 more liters of milk per day than their non-Mozart listening counterparts.
"It is relaxing music for them, but at the same time it is dynamic, it keeps the cows active. The trick is not to have music too relaxing," said Sieber's son, Nicolas Sieber, the head of marketing for the Priegola farm. But Sieber believes it's simpler than that. "If you give the cows comfort they are more disposed to help out," he said.
Originally discovered by monks in Brittany, the effect of Mozart on cows' milk production is not a totally new concept.
Since the early 1990s, when UC Irvine's Dr. Gordon Shaw and Dr. Francis Raucher theorized that listening to Mozart had the potential to boost babies' IQs and make adults smarter and more creative, the "Mozart effect," as it's come to be known, has sparked a worldwide debate on the power of sound therapy. But it was not until recently that researchers began testing the theory on animals.
"It only happens with Mozart, and, although it was discovered by monks in Brittany, the idea is being used mainly in Israel," said the younger Sieber of the Mozart effect. "We, in fact, have specialists come over from Israel to explain to us new concepts of production. And it was them that told us to use Mozart."
According to researchers, the placid harmonies, sharps and flats, legatos, and allegros of Mozart's music stimulate the brain, but relax the muscles allowing both humans and bovines to live up to their fullest potential.
Despite the Priegola farm's success, not everyone is sold on the benefits of musical milking.
British herdsman Chris Howard, who milks his ladies in silence, says that his girls' milk production is "just fine" without the music, attesting that a happy cow is one with food in front of her.
Perhaps Howard's biggest issue with the Mozart theory is that he does not even like classical music."I don't think I could put up with that, to tell you the truth," he admitted.
Whether it's their comfort or relaxation levels, both cows and owners have reaped unforeseen rewards from this experiment. Not only do these now blissful bovines produce more milk, but, as it turns out, their milk has higher levels of healthy fats and proteins and, according to the farm, a sweeter taste. Now, that's music to everyone's ears.