After 15 days of intense training at an indoor lab in Dummerstorf, Germany, 11 out of 16 Holstein calves hit a milestone that stormed the global news cycle and made every Holstein proud.
They learned how to potty (No. 1 only) in the “MooLoo,” a small, astroturf-covered latrine. New Zealand researchers from the University of Auckland were able to collect, treat, and neutralize the urine.
Carrot/stick method: The calves were rewarded with a slurp of sweet molasses when they used the “toilet” and were discouraged from doing their business outside the little green pen with a splash of water.
And they peed a lot. A single cow can produce about eight gallons of urine a day. Globally, their frequent urination produces 55-110 gallons of methane daily.
Putting the Pee in Pollution: Urine contains nitrogen, which can turn into nitrate, airborne nitrous oxide, and ammonia when mixed with soil and feces.
Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide and has a long shelf life. The gas comprises 7% of all U.S. greenhouse gases, according to the EPA. In New Zealand, it’s 12%.
To deal with their “nitrogen crisis,” officeholders in the Netherlands have proposed reducing livestock numbers by 30%. But what if they could toilet train their cattle instead?
What’s ahead: Finding out if potty training calves can be scalable in real life. And you better believe they’re gonna try this with No. 2.