Turns out cows can be potty trained as easily as toddlers. Maybe easier.
It’s no bull. Scientists put the task to the test and 11 out of 16 cows learned to use the “MooLoo” when they had to go.
Just like some parents, the researchers used a sweet treat to coax the cows to push through a gate and urinate in a special pen. And it took only 15 days to train the young calves. Some kids take quite a bit longer.
“The cows are at least as good as children, age 2 to 4 years, at least as quick,” said study senior author Lindsay Matthews, an animal behavioral scientist at New Zealand’s University of Auckland who worked with colleagues on the tests at an indoor animal research lab in Germany.
What started with a half-in-jest question on a New Zealand radio talk show about the very real problem of livestock waste resulted in a serious study published Monday in the journal Current Biology. And it wasn’t just a “wow, this could be fun” academic question. Massive amounts of urine waste is a serious environmental issue, Matthews said.
Urine contains nitrogen, and when mixed with feces becomes ammonia, which is an environmental issue with acid rain and other problems, Matthews said. It can also taint the water with nitrates and create the airborne pollutant nitrous oxide, he said.
And cows do pee a lot. A single cow can produce about 8 gallons (30 liters) of urine a day, Matthews said. In 2019, nitrous oxide comprised 7% of all the U.S. greenhouse gases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.