Scientists work to ‘potty train’ cattle
Scientists in New Zealand are working on a project to ‘potty train’ cattle, in a bid to improve welfare and reduce environmental impacts.
AgResearch New Zealand began by training eight calves, moving them to a ‘potty stall’ with a remote-controlled feeding station at one end.
Calves were rewarded for urinating or defecating in front of the feeding station. After six weeks and around 60 training sessions, the cows were given free access to the stalls and tested to see if they would use it.
Researchers say the scheme could improve cow welfare and hygiene in dairy sheds, giving farmers greater control over effluent application on pasture. This would offer significant environmental benefits, with reduced nitrogen loss on farms.
Dr Alison Vaughan, who carried out early trial work at the University of British Columbia, is working as a consultant on this project. During a 2017 TED Talk, she said an average cow produces around 15l of urine and 30kg of faeces a day.
“Because of this, barns are often designed to make removing manure easier to keep cows out of manure, but some of these designs and structures can compromise cow comfort and restrict behavioural freedom.”
Data from the recent study will be analysed over the coming months before the findings are published.