Sunday, February 1, 2009


'What is in a name?" This is a question asked often when people start losing sleep over the names they or their offsprings should have. Same dilemma bothers new companies, new products, new house owners and many believe success or failure is deeply linked to the name and its spelling. One has heard about politicians changing the spelling in their names to make them luckier and avoid political set backs. Many parents give names starting with the first alphabet so that their children will be seated in the front bench when joining the school. There are old timers who give their children the names of various Gods and Goddesses so that calling them by name every day will be like chanting the name of Almighty. Western countries repeat the names of grand parents and forefathers to the younger generation and differentiate by affixing the tags "Junior" or Greek numerals I, II, III etc.

The feuds in many rich and influential families regarding the daughters using the family name even after marriage are common, the underlying motive being their desire to bask in the glory of their parents.Those opposing use of family names by married daughters quote tradition to justify their view where as many new generation women refuse dropping the family name after marriage. There are also unique instances when husband affixes his wife's name to his own name sending a strong message of equal partnership once married. Thus there is a strong connection between a name and its implications within the family or in public.

Most important, a distinct name gives every individual an identity and through out the childhood, the name gets imprinted in the mind of the child. Of course in this digital age a distinct number is more relevant than a name if to live in the society. But still calling an individual by the name, especially the first name, symbolizes a relationship or kinship and an emotional synergy. Is this confined to human beings only or does this phenomenon extend to animals also? It is usual for pet owners to give names to their dogs or cats and it is amazing to see them responding to their names, especially when the owners call them. Strangers do not evoke the same degree of response as the their tone of calling does not resonate with the animal. The fierce loyalty a dog has, is generally attributed to the bonding between the master and the animal though some feel that the food they get from their owners make them behave like this.

In a novel twist to this perception, many owners of milch cows in UK claim that by giving distinct names to their cows, they are able to make them friendlier, each one of them developing their own personalities. If such a practice is followed right from the calf stage, the adult cows yield more milk on an annual basis. As much as 250-300 liters of more milk are obtained from cows given familiar names. Frequent interactions with such domesticated animals evoke affection and induce relaxation in them. Some farmers even address them as ladies in the firm belief that a respected and loved cow is more profitable to own. In cases where cows are not treated well the yield can go down by about 10%. It is unimaginable how large farms where hundreds of cows are stabled, individual names can be given and the logistics of giving attention to each and every one are mind boggling. Probably in countries like India this approach is more feasible as dairy farms are relatively small in size and rural families do not own more than a dozen cows at the most. One has heard of music being played in cattle sheds under the belief that this increases the milk yield though no scientific data exists regarding this.

It is known that milk flow is emotionally linked and even in human beings a distraught mother finds it difficult to give milk to her child. In many rural areas dead calves are stuffed and placed before the mother cow before milking to ensure uninterrupted flow of milk. Therefore it is possible that the affection and touch of humans could create a favorable emotion in the cows facilitating increased milk flow. Instead of personally going to each cow, is it possible audio channels beam out human voices to each cow to create the same effect? What about grazing cows? A daily schedule of "petting" when they come home may possibly have same effect. Some reports in India indicate many cruel methods also being used to extract more milk with less feed material without considering the trauma the animals undergo. It is time such practices are stopped and more humane approach is used to cajole the cow to give as milk as possible. We are not sure whether what works with cows will be effective with buffaloes also which abound in Asian continent. Scientific studies are needed to establish the usefulness of such off beat methods to optimize milk yield from cattle.


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