Happy farmers name their cows. Why? Because new research out of Newcastle University shows cows with names produce more milk than those without.

The scientists surveyed 516 UK dairy farmers, looking at human interaction with the dairy cattle along with milk productivity. The findings provide good news for dairy farmers. According to the researchers, farms with named cows have a higher milk production than those where cattle are herded as a large group. By simply naming their cows, dairy farmers can increase their milk yield by nearly 500 pints a year.

“Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention,” says Catherine Douglas, researcher at Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

The study reveals a farmer’s attitude toward his or her cattle can significantly affect milk production. So how many farmers actually talk to their cows? Of the 516 UK dairy farmers questioned, 46 percent reported calling their cows by name and 66 percent said they “knew all the cows in the herd.” In addition, almost half of the farmers believed that cows with positive human contact had a better milking temperament.

“By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal’s welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production,” says Douglas.

For some farmers, the findings are nothing new. “They aren’t just our livelihood – they’re part of the family,” says Dennis Gibb, co-owner of Eachwick Red House Farm outside Newcastle, Northern England. “We love our cows here at Eachwick and every one of them has a name. Collectively we refer to them as ‘our ladies’ but we know every one of them and each one has her own personality.”

Now the big question is: How many Betsys and Daisys will there be?