Reducing the levels of pollution on the planet is an urgent matter and that is why a group of scientists proved that cows can be trained to urinate in an assigned place and thus treat their waste, which pollutes the soil and produces five percent of gases that cause the greenhouse effect.
The idea was born a bit as a joke, but the researchers recognized that it could be a very helpful strategy for sustaining life on our planet. The Farm Animal Biology Research (FBN) team in Germany and the University of Auckland (New Zealand) succeeded in showing that calves or calves can learn to bath in a given location.
This study is done with the specific purpose of reducing the emissions of ammonia and nitrous oxide that are produced by the combination of cow waste, since feces and urine form ammonia gas that then seeps into the ground and comes out of this converted into nitrous oxide, the third most polluting greenhouse gas.
Jan Langbein, lead author of the study published in the journal Current Biology, says about cows:
It is normally assumed that cattle are not able to control defecation or urination, but cattle, like many other animals or farm animals, are quite intelligent and can learn a lot. Why can't they learn to use the toilet?
In reality, the cows were subjected to a behavioral stimulus and response process. When they urinated in the designated place, they were rewarded with something and when they did not, they were punished by making annoying noises and then only with a stream of water. The method was called by scientists "MooLoo"
We first used headphones in the ear as punishment and made a very unpleasant sound every time they urinated outside. We thought this would punish the animals, not too aversive, but they didn't care. In the end, a splash of water worked well as a mild deterrent.
The study is important, because it will benefit both the world and the management of the stables, since it will allow freer and more ventilated work areas that will make animal production a more respectful and hygienic task towards animals and less risky even for workers.
However, researchers now face the problem of adapting these spaces to real farm and open field production systems. But they have shown that 11 calves out of 16 have learned to go to the bathroom equal to or better than a three-year-old in less than three weeks. It is only a matter of transferring the research to real spaces so that, in the words of Langbein, "in a few years all the cows go to the bathroom".