A Maine woman has invented a new cologne. However, the cologne is not necessarily designed to be attractive to women. Lisa Brodar chose scents that are attractive to cows. She got the idea after reading about a Canadian farmer whose cows were spooked by the fragrance of his fabric softener. Lisa researched a bit and experimented with natural essential oils. After some tinkering, Lisa created a fragrance she named Farmer's Cologne.
Lisa was on the right track. Cows have a tremendously powerful sense of smell. They use their noses to understand what is going on in the world and to communicate with one another. Cows can smell something from miles away.
Two Odor-Detection Organs
Cows do not only experience odors with their noses. They have another organ, the Jacobson's organ in the roofs of their mouths. Sometimes when a cow is smelling something, it will raise its head and curl back its lips with its mouth open. It looks kind of strange, but the cow is actually using the Jacobson's organ to perceive an odor.
Communication by Smell
Cows use smell to communicate. The first thing that two unfamiliar cows will do when meeting one another is to smell each other. The two cows can get a sense of how dominant the other animal is by taking a good whiff of one another. A more subservient cow will back off from the other bossier cow. Cows emit pheromones, and these pheromones communicate whether the other animal is fearful, angry or relaxed.
A mother cow knows which calf in a whole herd of identical-looking calves is hers simply by smell. She can track the movements of her own calf through a field by smelling the calf's trail. If you've ever tried to graft an orphan calf onto a different mother, you will realize that cows just know which calf is theirs by the smell of the calf's hindquarters. Some mothers will allow a strange calf to nurse, but others will give the strange calf a swift kick. Likewise, calves know their mothers by smell. Before a calf begins nursing, he will check to see if a cow is his mother by taking a quick sniff to avoid that aforementioned kick.
A bull uses his sense of smell to determine if a cow is in heat. He can smell a cow in heat from as far as five miles away, and if he's determined enough, he will walk through fences to find her.
Cows use the sense of smell to determine whether or not they like a type of feed. They will shove their heads into a hay roll and use smell to find the tastiest bits. Cows will turn their noses up at an unfamiliar type of feed just because it is a foreign smell. Apparently, a cow's memory is strongly tied to smell. Cows that were raised on grain will eat it, even if it's been years since they've had any.
What It Means for the Farmer
When handling cows, farmers should keep a cow's powerful sense of smell in mind. Cows can smell things much more intensely than humans can, and an unfamiliar odor can seem threatening to a cow. A cow may be spooked by strong cologne or perfume. Even something as innocent as washing your barn coat can throw your cow off. If you have to change some type of smell (after all, barn clothes do have to be washed at some point) try to avoid heavily fragranced options. Additionally, give your cow a bit of time to get used to a new odor. Let her set the pace.
As for that Farmer's Cologne? I'd be surprised if any real farmers will spring for it. At $110 a bottle, most farmers will probably turn their noses up at it, no matter how attractive the cows think it is. Most real farmers understand that a pocket full of sweet feed will have the same effect at a fraction of the cost.