Cows are Being Successfully Potty Trained by Scientists for One Surprising Reason

potty trained cows
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Cows emit a tremendous amount of greenhouse gases like methane, and their urine also emits nitrous oxide.

In order to rein in these emissions, researchers are testing a new way to “potty train” cows on farms to see if a “new herd” with control over their bodily functions can lower the amount of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere.

The study revolved around a training tool called the ‘MooLoo,’ a specially designed toilet that was the centerpiece of a recent research project that was published in the journal Current Biology.

Cows “Potty Trained” Using Healthy Treats

For the study, researchers trained 16 calves to use the toilet, and found that they were able to reduce ammonia emissions by 56% after achieving 80% urine capture in the defined location, according to an article from

Their findings are said to be significant because nitrous oxide emissions occur when ammonia from cow urine interacts with microbes in soil.

Through the lowering of ammonia emissions and by keeping ammonia from touching the soil, the nitrous oxide emissions also remain minimal.

potty trained cows

Here’s how the researchers were able to potty train the animals:

1. By using food, such as barley or molasses, as a reward, calves were trained to urinate in the MooLoo. Ten of the calves quickly took to the exercise, and the study authors found that training cows to pee in designated areas was easier than potty training most young children.

2. The cows were also given a diuretic to spur urination first, and then given 45-minute periods in the MooLoo to do their business. Cows that did it correctly got a reward, but if the cows wandered off to pee somewhere else, the researchers used a small, three-second squirt of water from a lawn sprinkler to get them back on track.

“Our findings are original and reveal a hitherto unrealized opportunity to harness the cognitive capacities of animals to help resolve pressing environmental issues without compromising animal welfare,” the study notes.

“We have shown that a majority of cattle can be trained to deposit most of their urine in a defined location, enabling the development of more effective methods to collect, treat and dispose of pure urine than is currently possible with technical solutions alone.”

The authors said that more research is required on a larger scale, and some automation may be used for larger groups of cattle.

The hope is that the process could lower emissions while also improving the cleanliness of their living conditions.

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