Scientists have managed to toilet-train cows by giving them earphones that play harsh sounds when they relieve themselves outside, all in an effort to combat carbon emissions.
It’s known that cow urine and manure, when combined, create ammonia, which is a so-called “greenhouse gas.” When ammonia enters the soil, microbial organisms in the ground convert it into nitrous oxide, which allegedly is bad for the atmosphere.
Therefore the study, carried out by Germany’s Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and FLI, set out to toilet-train cows so their waste can be collected more easily.
“It’s usually assumed that cattle are not capable of controlling defecation or urination,” said researcher Jan Langbein.
“Cattle, like many other animals or farm animals, are quite clever and they can learn a lot. Why shouldn’t they be able to learn how to use a toilet?”
Over weeks of training, 11 out of 16 baby cows were successfully toilet-trained by them when they urinated in a latrine as opposed to on the ground.
Additionally, researchers had the animals associate urinating outside of the latrine with an uncomfortable experience by using headphones to play an irritating sound when the calf relieved itself outdoors. Where this didn’t work, other methods were used.
“We thought this would punish the animals – not too aversively – but they didn’t care. Ultimately, a splash of water worked well as a gentle deterrent,” said Langbein.
Dr. Langbein said he hopes “in a few years all cows will go to a toilet.”