Herd the one about potty trained cows?
IT’S good moos for the planet – experts have potty-trained cows by getting them to urinate in a special toilet.
By teaching calves to use this ‘MooLoo’, scientists say that it will be possible to both cut greenhouse gas emissions and create more open, animal-friendly farms.
When cattle are allowed to graze and relieve themselves freely, their waste can contaminate soil and waterways.
And while this problem can be controlled by confining cows to barns, the accumulation of urine and faeces in close quarters can produce ammonia instead.
Leaching into soil, ammonia can be converted by microbes into nitrous oxide – one of the top three greenhouse gases after carbon dioxide and methane.
In their study, experts from Germany’s Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology designed a toilet for cows that can collect ammonia so it can be treated.
‘It’s usually assumed that cattle are not capable of controlling defecation or urination,’ said paper author and animal psychologist Jan Langbein. But he added: ‘Cattle, like many other animals, are quite clever and they can learn a lot.’
By rewarding the animals with a sugar treat when they used the toilet, and splashing them with water when they didn’t, the team succeeded in training 11 out of 16 calves involved in the experiment to use the MooLoo.