How Can Cattle Be Toilet Trained? Incorporating Reflexive Behaviours into a Behavioural Chain
Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN), Institute of Behavioural Physiology, 18196 Dummerstorf, Germany
Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry, 29223 Celle, Germany
Behavioural Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Science, University of Rostock, 18059 Rostock, Germany
School of Psychology, The University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to the writing of the manuscript.
Received: 31 August 2020
Revised: 12 October 2020
Accepted: 12 October 2020
Published: 15 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Cattle
The mixing of bovine faeces and urine leads to climate-damaging ammonia emissions. If cattle could be taught to use a latrine, this would reduce the area of emissions, the separation of excreta could easily be accomplished by mechanical means, and animal health could be improved. Attempts to train toileting in cattle have shown limited success. In children, toileting is trained mainly by (i) interrupting voiding that starts outside the toilet, then taking the child to the toilet and rewarding the resumption of excretion, or (ii) placing the child on the toilet, waiting for urination/defecation and rewarding appropriate excretory behaviour. The first method is reported to be more successful. Thus, a similar procedure was evaluated for training latrine use for urination in calves. On 95% of occasions, the calves inhibited or stopped urination when receiving a signal to move to the latrine, and on 65% of occasions, they reinitiated urination in the latrine. Furthermore, during 63% of urinations in the latrine, the calves oriented towards the reward location before any food was delivered, providing additional evidence that calves can be successfully toilet trained with food rewards.