It’s toilet training for cows – and it could be ringing alarm bells at Waikato rugby HQ.
New Zealand media climbed all over a story this week which suggested cows could be trained to urinate in particular places.
Lindsay Matthews, an animal behavioural scientist at the University of Auckland, worked with colleagues on the tests at an indoor animal research lab in Germany, the reports read.
If it could be done, toilet training animals would make it easier to manage waste products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Donald Broom, a professor of animal welfare at the University of Cambridge in England.
Which is all well and good.
But MooLoo? That’s what media in New Zealand and overseas called it.
The last time someone tried to use that name the Waikato Rugby Union reminded them about copyright.
That’s why Morrinsville has a butcher call Mootown.
The News went to the union this week to see if the latest copycat, or copy cow, move would result in similar action
Not surprisingly, chief executive Carl Moon is looking into it, the Union confirmed.
The name issue should not come as a surprise to Lindsay Matthews. A profile says he studied at Waikato University.
The www.animal-law.biz website says he was awarded an Alexander von Humbolt Fellowship to develop innovative techniques to measure the behavioural requirements of livestock and in 1989 joined AgResearch as a behaviour/animal welfare scientist to develop and lead the first substantial research programme in Animal Welfare research in New Zealand.
Lindsay Matthews and Douglas Elliffe from Auckland collaborated with German scientists to produce the report.
On air this week Matthews said unlike cats and dogs, cows had no sense of toileting. But he noted neither did humans at birth.
“Poor old cows are vilified for polluting the air… and the urine is the biggie because of the high volumes of nitrates which goes through the soil.
“Plants and soil can’t handle it. The waste goes into the water and through the soil and converts to nitrous oxide.”
He said work was done in Germany where cows were indoors.
A total of 16 claves on a research institute were placed in a distinctive green pen and were rewarded when they urinated.
“The connection was very rapid – “but having them know that’s the toilet is not the same as having them go voluntarily”.
Further work established the cows could learn.
Matthews believes a system for cows could be worked to encourage them to regard milking time as the time to urinate.
Cows could have four litres “on board” in the morning and he believed if “we could get a significant chunk” it would be helpful.
He said work was being done with the dairy industry and financial support was being sorted to “take it to the next level”.