clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Forsooth, Shakespeare soothes cows and boosts milk

We few, we happy few, we band of cows;

For he to-day that sheds his milk with me

Shall be my brother ...

Exposing cows to William Shakespeare's lighter works may help increase milk production, according to a bizarre story early this month in London's Daily Telegraph.

Some research has shown that classical music can act as a "stimulant" to cows by helping them relax during milking.

So an intrepid British theater group set out to see if Shakespeare would have the same effect.

With the cows grazing nearby, the troupe performed "lyrical" and "relaxing" scenes from "The Merry Wives of Windsor," a lighthearted comedy about a man seducing two women. The performance apparently led to an increase in milk yields of 4 percent, the Telegraph reported.

That's less than the 10 percent increase some American farmers see when they administer artificial hormones to their cows. But the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH, is banned in many places, including Europe, Canada and Australia, in part because of the side effects on the animals. In the U.S., a growing number of companies are producing milk without the use of the synthetic substance and marketing the milk as "rBGH-free."

Encouraged by the findings, the troupe has since done several rehearsals with the cows, while staying away from some of the Bard's more upsetting and harrowing scenes from "Hamlet" or "Macbeth." "We don't want to upset the cows," said the troupe's director Rob Forknall, who enjoys the free rehearsal space and says the farmer is pleased to get more milk.

Still, we're left with several questions:

Does doing "Macbeth" get you buttermilk?

Does doing "The Taming of the Shrew" produce half and half?

If you performed "Henry V," would the St. Crispin's Day speech get the cows fired up?

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.