1. ITV Report

Music to soothe the animals

Pigs being entertained by The Broadside Boys Photo: ITV Anglia

Most farmers in the East play music or chat to their animals to relax them, according to the RSPCA.

The charity says its survey showed 69 per cent of farmers believe talking to their animals, chatting to them and playing the radio to them makes them more relaxed, calm and settled.

It follows research by Writtle College in Essex that found playing a radio tuned to pop music or a chat station can have a positive effect on sow and piglet behaviour by increasing sow suckling and causing piglets to be more playful.

Mark Hayward, who keeps pigs near Woodbridge in Suffolk, has taken the idea to new lengths. He's formed a band to play to his pigs. He said:

*"We are the only pig farm in the country - well, probably the world come to that - that has its own house band, the Broadside Boys. We often sit on the hay bales, singing and strumming to our Freedom Food pigs and i'm convinced they love it. And when the bands not playing we have music on all the time - coming from the tractors or my truck. *

"It creates a great working environment for me and my stockmen too. It's really important to be relaxed and calm around farm animals because they respond to your mood and in turn become more chilled out too. Music and also talking to our animals is a key part of that. I chat away to my breeding sows all the time, although the piglets are often too busy to stay still long enough to listen!"

– Mark Hayward, pig farmer

*RSPCA farm animal scientist, Dr Marc Cooper, added: *

"Chatting to farm animals may sound daft but there is a clear welfare message behind Freedom Food's survey. The farmers said that their animals are more content, relaxed and calm when they interact with them in this way. Like our pets, farm animals are intelligent, sentient beings and respond well to positive interaction. And just as we communicate to animals, they too communicate with us and can actually tell us a lot about themselves and how they are feeling by the way they behave."

– Dr Marc Cooper, RSPCA farm animal scientist