Classical music has the reputation of calming many people's mind, but they're not the only one deriving its benefit, for even piglets get less stressed after listening to these soothing melodies, says a new study.
According to a group of researchers, if classical music is played during piglets' growing up, their meat can contain fewer antibiotics.
Francien de Jonge at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and her colleagues are trying to find a way of reducing the amount of stress piglets endure on pig farms. They have found that encouraging the piglets to play appears to relax them.
As a result, they inflict fewer injuries on their pen mates, which reduces the amount of drugs they need to be treated with.
"Life is harsh on an intensive pig farms, and play can make a huge difference to the animals' longer-term welfare," New Scientist quoted de Jonge, as saying.
To maximize the benefit piglets got from daily play sessions lasting 15 minutes, she and her colleagues taught them to associate play with a soundtrack by Elgar and Bach.
"I specifically chose this music because its timbre is similar to the comfortable grunts pigs make during foraging," de Jonge said.
Six groups of 23 piglets, which were still housed with their mothers, heard music and at the same time were given access to a playroom. Another six groups also heard the music, but could not go into the playroom.
At four weeks old, the piglets were suddenly separated from their mothers and housed together - standard farming practice in the Netherlands. The post-weaning period is a stressful time for the piglets and fighting and injuries are frequent.
During the days after weaning, the researchers played the same soundtrack back to the piglets. Even though they no longer had a dedicated playroom, the music encouraged them to play and subdued their aggressive behaviour when meeting their new pen mates.
As a result, the piglets that had been trained to recognise the music as a signal for playtime sustained around 10percent fewer injuries than those that had not been allowed a playroom.
De Jonge says there is no reason to think that pigs are naturally musical. But she hopes to turn music into an independent tool to calm and relax the animals even after they grow up, by teaching the piglets to develop a taste for music through association with the pleasurable experience of playtime.
The study is published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.