Farmer Izzet Kocak, 30, from Aksaray, Turkey, takes unconventional paths. In order to get more milk from his cows in winter, he puts virtual reality glasses on the animals – so that the cows think they are grazing on a lush pasture, while in reality they are standing in the barn and being milked. It works: there are five or six liters more in the milk cans than in previous years.
SZ: Good morning, Mr. Kocak. You are not allowed to visit, and you are also difficult to reach by phone. What’s wrong with you?
Izzet Kocak: There’s a lot going on. The world press is beating down my door, everyone is writing about the cows with the VR glasses. There are millions of clicks on the internet. Even the New York Times got in touch about my cows. But now I only give journalists information over the phone. Because of Corona – visit is not possible.
The global interest can hardly surprise you. Which farmer puts VR glasses on his cows to get more milk?
Yes, but this works fine. While we milk the animals, they carry the equipment and see pure nature: meadows, forests, streams. They also listen to classical music. Mozart and Beethoven. And because they like it, they give more milk.
How did you come up with this idea?
I read on Facebook that they tried such things successfully in Russia and then tried it. I took my kids’ VR goggles and put them on the cows.
However, some newspapers write that they are special glasses from Russia. Is that correct?
No, my VR glasses are really for children. They are not expensive, around 250 Turkish lira (equivalent to 17 euros, ed.). Of course they are too small for the cow skull. But real virtual reality glasses for animals do not yet exist. That’s why I use two devices per cow: the animals see an endless loop with the nature video in one eye, and it’s dark in the other. We feed the nature video from a mobile phone. But now I’m in contact with a company that is supposed to develop something suitable, something for both cow eyes.
And the cattle wear these parts all day long?
No, no, just for milking. The cow is online for 20 minutes, that’s all it takes. So far there are only two animals with which I test. I’ll increase to six soon. And if things keep going well, I’ll do it with all my dairy cows.
What are the names of your two miracle cows?
They don’t actually have real names. I call them my “Golden Girls”.
Turkish animal rights activists say you are a terrible animal abuser.
No I’m not. The animals like the music, it calms them down. They also like the videos. I also consulted with veterinarians. They said it wasn’t a problem.
And when the Golden Girls aren’t online, what are they doing?
They stand in the stable or on the pasture. My farm is more than 6000 square meters and I produce 700 tons of milk annually.
You seem to know your way around cattle. Did you grow up on a farm?
Yes, we are actually a three-generation company. My grandfather is a farmer, my father, I – and hopefully later my two little sons too. I myself worked on my father’s farm until three years ago. Then I started my own business. I now have 180 cattle, 100 of which are dairy cows. It is a beautiful reddish brown breed. They come from Austria.