Scientists potty training cows in New Zealand – no bull

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Cows can be potty trained as easily as toddlers, the AP reports. Scientists put the task to the test and 11 out of 16 cows learned to use the “MooLoo” when they had to go.

Just like some parents, the researchers used a sweet treat to coax the cows to push through a gate and urinate in a special pen. And it took only 15 days to train the young calves.

“The cows are at least as good as children, age 2 to 4 years, at least as quick,” said study senior author Lindsay Matthews, an animal behavioral scientist at New Zealand’s University of Auckland who worked with colleagues on the tests at an indoor animal research lab in Germany.

What started with a half-in-jest question on a New Zealand radio talk show about the question of livestock waste resulted in a serious study published Monday in the journal Current Biology. And it wasn’t just a “wow, this could be fun” academic question. Massive amounts of urine waste is a serious environmental issue, Matthews said.

Livestock waste is great fertilizer. The article left that out. Environmental extremists in this country want cows to wear diapers.

The environmentalists are worried about cow urine causing acid rain and tainted waters. Although, training them to do their business in a certain location could make clean up easier.

And cows do pee a lot. A single cow can produce about 8 gallons (30 liters) of urine a day, Matthews said. In 2019, nitrous oxide comprised 7% of all the U.S. greenhouse gases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

At the lab is Dummerstorf, Germany, the researchers mimicked a toddler’s training, putting the cows in the special pen, waiting until they urinated, and then giving them a reward: a sweet liquid of mostly molasses. Cows do have a sweet tooth, Matthews said. If the cows urinated outside the MooLoo after the initial training, they got a squirt of cold water.

Then in two sets of experiments, the researchers let the Holstein cows roam about the indoor facility. When they had to urinate, 11 of them pushed into the pen, did their business, and got their sweet reward.

There are a couple of caveats to this experiment.

No. 1, they gave diuretics to the cattle to get them to urinate more because they had limited time to run the experiments under ethics guidelines.

And No. 2, they didn’t do No. 2. They only trained cows to use the MooLoo to urinate, not defecate.

Urine is a bigger problem, at least in Europe, Matthews said. But he predicted they could train cows to poop in a certain place too.

While dogs, cats, and horses can be toilet trained, they already show the desire to go in special places, but cows don’t, Matthews said.

 

 


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