Cows chat to each other about food and the weather, according to an astonishing new study that revealed they all have their own unique 'moo', writes Laura Sharman.

The study revealed how dairy cows respond to positive and negative emotional situations each with their own individual voice and linked their moods to their moos.

Experts reckon they can decipher the language of the cows, made up from different-pitched moos, using computer software they dubbed 'Google translate for cows.'

Biologists made the discovery by listening to Holstein-Fresian heifer cattle, a European breed, mooing into a microphone and analysing the pitch.

They found each cow retains its own distinct moo and can give cues in different situations which helps them to maintain contact with the herd and express excitement, arousal, engagement or distress.

Lead study author Alexandra Green, from the University of Sydney in Australia, said: "We found that cattle vocal individuality is relatively stable across different emotionally loaded farming contexts.

"Recognising individual cattle could assist farmers in the non-invasive detection of welfare." The findings could help farmers keep their cattle healthy and happy by understanding each cow's mood by translating their individual moos.

Scientists hope it will also help improve animal welfare thanks to an area of study which historically had not received much attention.

Cattle mothers and offspring are known to communicate by maintaining individuality in their lowing, according to existing research.

But the new study confirms that cows maintain this individual mooing throughout their lives, even when they are nattering among themselves.

Dairy cows communicate with each other all the time, but when they are talking about happier things, like food, their moos are more sonorous.

And when they are moaning about the weather, their moos, while still retaining their fingerprint-like individuality, are pitched lower.

Read more: On the moo-ve: cows spotted waiting for a bus in Guernsey

PhD candidate Alexandra said: "Cows are gregarious, social animals.

"In one sense it isn't surprising they assert their individual identity throughout their life and not just during mother-calf imprinting.

"But this is the first time we have been able to analyse voice to have conclusive evidence of this trait."

In the study, scientists recorded hundreds of 'moos' from 13 Holstein-Friesian heifers using acoustic analyses programmes with help from colleagues in Italy and France.

Analysis suggests cows are happy in heat and when they know they are going to be fed while negative contexts were when cows were denied access to food and when physically and visually isolated from the rest of the herd.

Findings suggest farmers should integrate knowledge of individual cow voices into their daily farming routines.

She said: "We hope that through gaining knowledge of these vocalisations, farmers will be able to tune into the emotional state of their cattle, improving animal welfare.

"By understanding these vocal characteristics, farmers will be able to recognise individual animals in the herd that might require individual attention."

Alexandra's supervisor, associate professor Cameron Clark, described the research as a "Google translate for cows."