They say that potty-training toddlers requires an intensive amount of patience and determination. But can you imagine potty-training cows? Yes, you read that right. According to a recent article published in Current Biology, cows can, in fact, be toilet-trained.
The research showcases ten calves who were effectively toilet-trained in the hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Evidence supports the notion that toilet-training calves will lead to an overall "56% reduction in ammonia emissions," which may provide a solution for climate change.
Like infants, these calves gradually learned how to use the "toilet." Instead of following a parenting blog on "how to potty train your child," the researchers modeled a three-step strategy. This three-step process was used to teach the calves that urination equals a reward.
The process starts with "in-latrine training," where the researchers enclose calves in a distinct area embedded with a latrine, commonly knowns as a restroom. After each urination event in the latrine, the calves received a reward, in this case, food.
Second, the cattle were "toilet-trained" in a manner equivalent to watching toddlers do a celebration dance after using the toilet for the first time. This step involved using a gated latrine following the end of an alley. Calves successful in latrine urination were rewarded, and those who urinated in the alley were "punished" with a 3-second water spray. Imagine doing that with a child; the intense crying would be more challenging to navigate than potty-training a cow.
In the last phase, the calves advanced to "toileting + training." This final stage in training ensured calves could control their bladder over a prolonged distance to the latrine since the distance from the alley to the restroom was increased.
The completion of all phases in "how to toilet-train your cow" resulted in potty-trained calves. Out of the 16 calves employed in the study, ten graduated from "toilet-training" school.
The data suggest that capturing cattle urine will lead to a cleaner, safer environment for animals and humans. Researchers are hopeful that this study can provide cattle farmers with a solution for continuously dealing with the "climate killer conundrum."
This dilemma showcases the discrepancy between allowing cattle to have increased grazing spaces, leading to higher greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists in this study proclaim that their findings will "help resolve pressing environmental issues without compromising animal welfare." Holy cow!