Making moosic

Report: Mike Wakeham
The West Australian, July 22 1998

Music maker Robert Boyd knows his onions. He has been involved in producing therapeutic music on electronic keyboards for many years and it is not sequenced or computer-produced as with a lot of ambient music.

"The music I have produced to calm cattle at Lyndon's farm, although pleasant to human ears, contains tonal qualities which are specifically compatible to cattle,' he said.

"When we first played it to a feed lot of 36 cattle, more than half of them laid down and chewed their cuds or nodded off to sleep. The effect was quite remarkable. This application of specific musical sounds can be useful in all areas where animals are involved.'

Applied sound therapy for animals is not a new concept and dairy farmers have been playing it to their cows during milking for years, and much anecdotal and hard evidence exists proving that cows produce more milk if they have music played for them.

"Domesticated animals, like humans, have stress problems," said Mr Boyd. "They are totally dependent on humans for their care.

"If we own a domestic pet wc have accepted the responsibility of the animal's complete welfare. A farmer is equally responsible for the complete welfare of his stock. The word welfare must be understood in the wholistic sense of both physical and psychological welfare of the animal.

"It is well known in animal husbandry that physical stresses such as poor feed, lack of water, deficiencies in minerals and trace elements and attacks from lice, ticks, flies, mites, flies, viruses and diseases are all acknowledged to be major contributors to the downgrading of stock.

"But what about the animals' psychological stresses? Does the farmer consider the social stresses when culling out some members of an established herd, the stress fear in the animals as they are loaded onto a vehicle, the stress they feel when they encounter unfamiliar smells of the previous loads?

"Additional stress factors are travelling long distances, standing up and not being able to control the movement unable to lay down, being without the normal routine of food and water, being unloaded at an unfamiliar place perhaps within hearing and sight of other unfamiliar animals.

"The ultimate fear if the animals are destined for the abattoir is to smell the fear, the blood and the death of other animals."

The practical method, Mr Boyd said, is the application of therapeutic music and sound is one of the best ways to reduce the stress of those factors.

There is a wide variety of applications of that principle, he said. They include music for working horses, race horses, cattle (dairy and beef), goats, sheep, pigs, fowl (egg producers and meat producers), domestic pets, animals during pregnancy, pedigree stock, boarding kennels for cats and dogs, pet shops, stock truck companies, stables at riding schools, wild animal sanctuaries and zoos.

And let's not forget oyster, marron and trout farms.

No doubt yabbies would enjoy a little yodelling.