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Scientists work to ‘potty train’ cattle
Researchers say the scheme could improve cow welfare and hygiene.
Toilet training could bring welfare and environmental benefits 

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.

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New road sign to protect small wildlife

News Story 1
 Transport secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled a new road sign to help cut traffic accidents and protect small wildlife, particularly hedgehogs.

Local authorities and animal welfare groups are being asked to identify accident and wildlife hotspots where the sign - which features a hedgehog - should be located.

Government figures show that more than 600 people were injured in road accidents involving animals in 2017, and four people were killed. These figures do not include accidents involving horses. The new sign will be used to warn motorists in areas where there are large concentrations of small wild animals, including squirrels, badgers, otters and hedgehogs.  

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NOAH members re-elect Jamie Brannan as chair

Jamie Brannan, senior Vice President of Zoetis, has been re-elected as chair of NOAH for 2019/20, during this year’s AGM, held in London.

Mr Brannan joined Zoetis and the NOAH board in 2016, becoming NOAH’s vice-chair in 2018 and replacing Gaynor Hillier as chair later that year.

He commented: “I am extremely pleased to have been elected by the NOAH membership and am proud to be able to represent our industry at such a critical time for the UK animal health industry. I look forward to driving forward our new NOAH Strategy and to working with our members, old and new, in the coming year.”