Cows and humans share an everyday nuisance — flies. But biting flies are a particular nuisance to these large herds of animals as they graze in fields and board in barns. Typically, the flies are deterred with pesticides that farmers put on the cows, but those poisons can be dangerous and have side effects.
Now scientists have created a new and improved way of dealing with those pesky flies. Instead of using harsh chemicals, researchers painted stripes on six Japanese black cows. The cows now look like zebras, and suddenly the flies aren’t interested anymore.
The researchers used three different methods to test their plan with varying effects. To start, they painted one cow with traditional zebra stripes, which camouflaged the cows from their arch-nemesis. Another cow was painted with only black stripes instead of black and white stripes.
The last cow was not painted at all as they used this cow as a baseline for their hypothesis. The two painted cows seem to be living their best lives as they are not being harassed by flies. Sadly, the unpainted cow still has to deal with the flies.
Researcher Tomoki Kojima spoke with Bored Panda to explain how this premise came to be. “About 5 years ago, I watched a Japanese TV program which introduced the function of zebra stripes. I had never known it [before]. After watching the TV program, I looked for and read papers regarding the function of zebra stripes and [I decided that] I would like to apply the function to cows.”
Kojima stated that the pesticides that were being used previously on the cows were not proven to deter flies; they simply forced them to keep their distance. As with any pesticide, these wear off if it rains or if the cows roll in mud or dirt.
The cows were studied for a few months. The researchers found that the two cows being painted were bitten 50 percent less often than the unpainted cow. And so far there are no complaints from the painted cows.