Russian cows have been given virtual reality headsets in a bid to boost milk yields by making the animals think they live in a permanently sunny pasture.
The Moscow agriculture ministry, which announced the pilot project at a large dairy farm outside the capital, cited research that happy cows produce more milk, saying “the quantity, and sometimes the quality of milk increases markedly in a calm atmosphere.”
In what is believed to be a world first, the RusMoloko farm has partnered with researchers and veterinarians to implement a special VR programme developed specifically for cows.
“Virtual reality architects created a unique summer field simulation programme based on numerous studies showing that cows are better at perceiving shades of red than green and blue tones on the color spectrum,” the statement said.
The statement suggested a red-focused colour scheme for the VR simulation would make a perpetual summer even more enjoyable for the cows.
It was not immediately clear what kind of conditions the cows normally endure, but Russian winter is long and the summer fleeting.
The headsets have been specifically designed for the shape of a cow’s head, and early tests have shown positive results, the statement said.
“During the first test, experts recorded a decrease in anxiety and an increase in the overall emotional mood of the herd,” the ministry said.
“The impact of VR glasses on milk production will be demonstrated by further comprehensive study.”
The ministry also said that the developers intend to scale the project and modernise the entire domestic dairy production industry.
"Technology improvements should impact the industry as a whole,” the ministry said.
According to the ministry, the idea of kitting cows with VR goggles is an entirely new and novel Russian innovation.
Technology is increasingly being used by farmers worldwide to improve both the lives of cattle on dairy farms and also their milk output.
In the US farmers install automated brushes to cattle stalls to massage the cows. Russian farmers, however, have until recently leaned towards Tchaikovsky rather than technology to improve the lives of dairy cows.
“In the Moscow suburbs, in particular, manufacturers install sound equipment for broadcasting classical music, the relaxing effect of which has a positive effect on milk output,” the statement said.