In a bid to finally address the massive environmental toll of livestock emissions, scientists have decided to potty train cows. Yes, you read that right. Early signs are positive.
If you can potty train a child, you can potty train a cow.
At least that was the theory posited by a group of environmental scientists, not to sate their famed German sense of humour, but to cut back on huge emissions from the agriculture industry.
Specifically, their project looked at ways of limiting the impact of nitrous oxide – the third most significant polluter after methane and carbon dioxide – associated with the rearing livestock.
While ammonia from cow waste doesn’t directly contribute to climate change, when left to be absorbed by the ground its microbes contaminate soil and nearby waterways. This is also precisely how nitrous oxide is formed.
With the ultimate aim of collecting and neutralising the ammonia within this urine, biologists and environmental scientists have long searched for ways to potty train cattle. But it turns out they’re real stubborn about where they do the business when nature calls.
In a recent study however, German scientists finally managed to make the almighty breakthrough. Congrats everyone, milkshakes all round.
Training young calves through a psychological method known as classical conditioning, they learned to associate urinating in the confines of the ‘MooLoo’ with a tasty reward – like sugar water or crushed barley.
The rebel mammals among the crop who decided to relieve themselves elsewhere were surprised by a shot blast of water from above. It sounds cruel, but it’s more a gentle squirt of water than an ice bucket challenge.