Science - October 11, 2016

‘Cows do not get seasick in the harbour’

Albert Sikkema

The construction of a Floating Farm in the Port of Rotterdam has been postponed, because the Rotterdam city council is unsure whether the cows could become seasick. The probability of this being the case is practically zero, says Johan van Leeuwen, professor of Experimental Zoology.

Cows can in fact become seasick. Research has previously been performed on cows that were transported to a different continent over water, says Van Leeuwen. These cows became seasick. Some cows even perished, although that was caused by the fact they were tightly packed on the ship and became overheated. The rolling motion disrupts the working of the cow’s vestibular system, much like in humans. According to literature, sheep that were transported by ship also became seasick.

However, the Floating Farm is not located on open water, but in the Port of Rotterdam. Van Leeuwen estimates that the rolling will not be very significant there. People also live in houseboats in harbours, and tourists stay in floating hotels in the harbours too. These people do not become seasick, and such a hotel is a good comparison to the large pontoon upon which the floating dairy farm is to arise.

In other words: there is a theoretical chance that the cows would become seasick, but the factual chances – given the location – are negligible, concludes Van Leeuwen.

Besides, according to the professor, seasickness will not be the primary wellness problem of the cows in the Port of Rotterdam. In this, he responds to the statement made by the Dutch Party for the Animals that wants to see research performed into whether the rolling of the water harms the wellbeing of the cows. An important wellness problem of cows in the current housing situation is their limited space to lie or walk and the fact that cows in sheds move very little. A soft floor, a waterbed as a sleeping spot and good access to the pastures next to the harbour are much more important points for the wellbeing of the cows than their chance for seasickness, argues the professor.

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  • Hans Hopster

    Helemaal eens.