Scientists in Germany potty train cows and design special toilet ‘MooLoo’ to cut greenhouse gas emissions

As part of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, scientists from Germany have succeeded in training cows to urinate in specially arranged toilets. The researchers developed a special toilet that cows can walk into. The potty training in cows was a success, said the researchers from Germany’s Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology. 

Researchers have found that when ammonia from cow’s urine is mixed with soil, nitrous oxide- a greenhouse gas, is formed.  The release of cow’s body waste can lead to the contamination of local soil and nearby waterways. Leaching into the soil, ammonia from cows can be converted by microbes into nitrous oxide. So the scientists designed a toilet for cows that can collect ammonia so it can be treated.

Experiment

16 cows were used to conduct the experiment and for the first time, researchers rewarded the animals with a sugar treat every time when they urinated in a specially equipped urinal. As a punishment, water was pumped out for three seconds on the cows that urinated outside the barn.  Later the distance between the cows and the toilet was increased. Punishments were continuously given as long as the cows increased the distance from the urinals.

The urinal set up for the cows is named ‘MooLoo’ by the scientists. The team says that it will be possible to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create more open, animal-friendly farms.

After 10 training sessions, all the cows were successfully trained in toilet use.  Researchers also say dogs, cats, and horses can be trained to use toilets later in the years. With their initial study complete, the team is now keen to transfer what they have learned in their tests to real-world cattle housing and outdoor systems.