Magic milk-making secret is moo-sic to cows’ ears

Dairy farmers looking to boost their milk yield would do well to play their cows Eine kleine Nacht ‘moo’ zik, according to new research undertaken by two students in Castlecomer Community School.

Dairy farmers looking to boost their milk yield would do well to play their cows Eine kleine Nacht ‘moo’ zik, according to new research undertaken by two students in Castlecomer Community School.

Helen O’ Shea and Amy-Rose Holden decided to see if there was any truth to an old tale, in which a farmer plays music to his herd to produce more milk. The girls set up speakers in a barn and subjected the cows to it over a three-day period.

They found that classical music increased number of litres produced, but that rock music reduced the milk yield. The animals are reputed to favour the waltzes of Dmitri Shosta-‘cow’-vich or the early sonatas of Ludwig van ‘Beef’hoven.

The enterprising students were just two of Kilkenny’s bright young minds who were at the RDS in Dublin last week taking part in the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. In total, there were nine different entrants from Kilkenny, with five local schools involved. Between Thursday and Saturday, over 550 projects were in competition for the coveted title, having been narrowed down from almost 4,000 entries initially.

Other projects from Castlecomer Community School included ‘Investigation on the effects of binaural beats on boys and girls’, and ‘A statistical analysis ino the attitude and awareness of adolescents towards teenage acne’.

Colaiste Pobail Osrai had four different entries. Second year students Kayleigh Ní Nualláin, Liza Nic Uirthile and Cáit Nic Craith undertook an investigation of whether a musical ear is an inherited trait. The girls performed tests on a large group of primary school children who were asked to copy a musical note with a signal generator.

They then compared the frequency of the note they played with the frequency of the tone the children created, and found that siblings shared similar musical ability compared to random pairs chosen from the general population.

Another second year group, Sarah Brabazon, Moya Millie and Rachel Ní Dhorchaí carried out an investigation into what factors influence a child to be either a leader or a follower. Their study involved an experiment and a questionaire on primary school children from local schools. They found that birth order and having siblings were most strongly related to leadership.

Transition Year students Emma Ní Fhearchailligh-Cheallaigh and Judith Ní Eara undertook a project analysing the development of racism using a new approach involving the chick model. ‘Ciniochas agus na cnuthacha criticuil ag baint usaid as an samhail sicin ’ looked at what happened to pecking order rank when random individuals were coloured black.

The girls found that the effect varied depending on the ages of the chicks. This indicates that racism could arise after a certain age, and that possibly a similar age should be sought after when mixing occurs in its earliest stages.

A second transition year group, Dubhaltach Ó Maoilriada, Aoife Ní Dhubhghaill and Aoise Ní Néill, took on a project on optimising stove flue performance using a combination of practical measurements and mathematical modelling. Their model is appropriate for looking at a multitude of different flue arrangements to identify the optimal approach.

Loreto Kilkenny entered a project entitled ‘Dancing your way to fitness’, while CBS Kilkenny focused on the biological and ecological category, with a project called ‘Studying wildlife in Kilkenny and our local area’.

Meanwhile, there was also a success story from Heywood Community School, where Cormac McGowan, a fifth year student, won the senior individual third prize in the biological and life sciences section. His project was to compare the lung functions of those who played football at Heywood Community School against a control group of students.

He found, not surprisingly, that the footballers had a slightly better lung function than the non-players. The project involved the use of a spirometer to collect some lung volumes and lung function measurements such as FEV1 (Forced Expiratory Volume - the amount of air you can blow out in 1 second) and FVC (Forced Vital Capacity - the amount of air you can blow out after a maximum inhalation).

Using statistical software, he showed that there may be some advantages to membership of a school sports team or local club in the development of a young person’s lung function. The project was completed with the help of his science teacher Aodhagan O’Suilleabhain.