by Kevin Burton
Did you know cows can be potty trained?
It’s not April first, please keep reading.
This I would have never believed had I not heard it from the BBC. And I would have never read this had I not signed up for their newsletter.
By all means kids, sign up for the BBC e-mail newsletter! Don’t risk missing this type of important news.
The place where these cows do their business, of course, is called the “MooLoo.”
Had I given you a second, you would have figured that one out.
At the Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Germany, researchers attempted to train 16 cows to use a specific toilet, according to the BBC. Those who did were given food as a reward. Those who missed the mark were sprayed with water for three seconds.
Why would these researchers, who presumably went to really good schools, do such a thing? It’s about eliminating greenhouse gasses, the BBC writes.
About ten percent of greenhouse gas emission from human activity come from cattle humans are raising.
“The ammonia from cows’ urine turns into the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide when it’s mixed with soil,” The BBC writes. Urine from the fortunate cows in this study was collected and treated.
During the study the cows were walked increasingly longer distances from the MooLoo, so researchers could see if they were making this bathroom decision as a conscious choice. The rewards and punishments continued.
Eleven of the cows proved trainable.
“Very quickly, within 15 to 20 urinations on average, the cows would self-initiate entry to the toilet,” Lindsay Matthews, a researcher involved in the study told Radio New Zealand. “By the end, three quarters of the animals were doing three-quarters of their urinations in the toilet,” he said.
I have never potty-trained a child. Those of you who have, would you say hitting the target 75 percent of the time constitutes successful training?
“The calves showed a level of performance comparable to that of children and superior to that of very young children,” the study concluded.
“Researchers say that capturing 80 percent of cattle urine in a model like the MooLoo could lead to a 56 percent reduction in ammonia emissions,” according to the BBC.
“They also say that reducing the levels of urine in the animals’ living area will improve their hygiene and welfare.”
This next question is for those concerned about greenhouse gasses. Though this study was conducted in Germany, can we extrapolate that it is easier to potty train cows than to get Americans to build and use a European-style train system?
The US Environmental Protection Agency lists transportation as the top producer of greenhouse gasses.
OK, so as stimulating as this cow maneuver story may be, I dare say it’s not news you can use. You may ask, how can I use this information as leverage to brighten my Wednesday?
I am not as concerned as some are about greenhouse gasses. But I am a big believer in training that leads to cleaner, healthier habits. So let it be hope that brightens your midweek!
If we can potty train cows, what other training can we employ to make man’s collective life better?
Can we train men to put the toilet seat back down, and/or train women to stop complaining about toilet seats left up?
I would think the food rewards and spraying of water punishments could be employed here. I would put the seat down much more often if I got a taco for doing so.
Can we train grocery shoppers not to take 31 items into the 12-items-or-fewer line? Reward: your chili-cheese Fritos are free! Punishment: you have to baby-sit for that child who just knocked over the Heinz Ketchup display.
Can we train grocery store managers to write “12 items or fewer” instead of 12 items or less” as they should?
Can we train drivers to use their turn signals, dog people to clean up Fido’s mess (any researchers studying this?), coughers to cover their mouths?
Can we train anyone to provide actual customer service?
You may have doubts, but I say we can train all these people to do all these things. Just ask our German cow friends. The proof is in the potty.