Dairy Cows Are The New Therapy Dogs: Michigan State Students Brush Cows Ahead Of Exams

Close-up of cow
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Interacting with dogs has shown such positive results with victims of trauma or people with disabilities that colleges are bringing dogs to their campus during a student’s most stressful time: exam week. Now, cows are showing beneficial results when it comes to stress relief, People is reporting. Michigan State University students were invited to go to the Michigan State University Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center to brush cows throughout exam week. According to farm manager Andrea Meade, the therapy worked like a charm.

“I have been following other trends in agriculture like ‘goat yoga’ and wanted to see if any MSU students would be interested in a similar experience,” said Meade. “We had Christmas music playing, and all of the students remarked how much they had enjoyed getting to meet the cows. The cows very much enjoyed this event; I would say they equally enjoyed brushing and petting.”

Meade said around 50 students participated in the program, and 35 cows were selected to be brushed. These cows ranged from 2- to 10-years-old, and even Ph.D. students joined in on the fun. Meade said that it was not only beneficial for the students, but the cows as well. Meade was on the look out for rumination, aka cud chewing, which is a sign that a cow is relaxed. Sure enough, the cows ruminated as a result of their brushing session. Not only did they chew their cud, but Meade says some cows even laid down and fell asleep. While students were able to relax physically, Meade believes that cows can help people relax emotionally.

“Cows are great listeners and you can tell how they are feeling by the way they hold their ears, much like a horse,” Meade said.

She added that cows are similar to dogs as they are both “soulful, calm creatures.” While cows may not be as smart as dogs, they appreciate company like dogs and enjoy making friends.

“They are very social, group-oriented animals that hate to be alone, and they have very strong social structures, just like a pack of dogs,” Meade explained.

Inviting students to brush the cows was seen as such a success that Michigan State University is looking into holding the event again for finals week next semester. The staff of the Michigan State University Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center are even contemplating opening up the therapy to the public. For now, the public is able to visit with the cows from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day, with tours offered year-round.