October 21, 2021

Researchers Are Bullish on Bovine Potty Training

It turns out cow urine is a huge environmental problem, but if we can just get these animals to pee in a cow toilet ...

A group of German and New Zealand researchers is doing just that: They are potty training cows.

On its own, cow urine pollutes the soil and air. When mixed with feces it produces ammonia, a wide-ranging environmental problem. And the problem's a real pisser. In one day a single cow produces about 30 liters of urine.

In 2007, researcher Lindsay Matthews was discussing this on talk radio when she got an idea: Why not train the animals to use a latrine?

Now she and other researchers are. They have trained a small group of cows to enter a gate to a special pen to use the loo -- the "MooLoo." Such pens could be designed to collect cow waste and then treat it or turn it into fertilizer.

To test the possibility, the team took a small group of calves and went to work potty training them, much the way parents toilet train their children. They coaxed the animals into a pen using a sweet reward, a mix of molasses and barley. And after fifteen days, eleven of the group of sixteen cows diligently entered then pen, did their duty, and came out for their treat.

How many parents potty train their children that quickly?

The next step will be to somehow scale this for herds (which are sometimes giant), and of course, finding an incentive for farmers, a way they can save or make money by … by bothering to toilet train their young calves. 

In western movies we see cowboys like John Wayne "breaking" horses. Will it kill the genre if they are instead potty training cute young calves? Worse, will people lose their love of beef if they know it can be "potty trained"?

This story can't be published without a quote, and the technical wording is more fun than pee jokes and puns. This from a paper in Current Biology.

Indiscriminate voiding of excreta by cattle contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and soil and water contamination.  … Voiding in a specific location (latrine) would help resolve this dilemma by allowing ready capture and treatment of excreta under more spacious farming conditions.

Silly as it sounds, if the idea catches on, the MooLoo could be a strong tool in the fight against climate change. 

By John Sailors
OffKey Blog, Oct. 21, 2021

Copyright 2021, by John Sailors.

No comments:

Post a Comment