Questions for ‘Potty-trained cows could help reduce pollution’

a cow enters a bathroom stall

This cow is a whiz at potty training. Researchers trained it and other calves to use a bathroom stall (pictured) when they need to pee.


To accompany ‘Potty-trained cows could help reduce pollution’  


Before Reading:

  1. What does it mean to “train” an animal? What types of animals do you think would be easier to train? What types of animals do you think would be hard to train? Why?
  2. What type of animals can you think of, such as pets, that people potty-train? What are some reasons for doing this with animals?
  3. How would you describe the smell of a cow barn? Where do you think all the cow pee and poop ends up?

During Reading:

  1. Why do scientists want to potty-train cows?
  2. What can the cow’s urine be used to make? Which part of that urine is used?
  3. What “powerful greenhouse gas” is released by cow pee mixing with cow poop?
  4. What is meant by the term “MooLoo” training? How did scientists reward good behavior in their cows? How did scientists discourage bad behavior?
  5. What does it mean to be “automated”? Why do researchers like Lindsay Matthews think that potty-training cows would need to be automated? And what does she mean by that?
  6. In what ways do researchers like Jason Hill think potty-training cows could help the environment? What kinds of emissions are his major concern?

After Reading:

  1. Do you think it’s a good idea to potty-train cows? What would be the advantages and disadvantages? Can you think of any animals other than cows that we should potty-train?
  2. Can you think of ways that potty-training cows could be automated? List at least two duties that humans had to perform in the “MooLoo” training. Then, for each duty, brainstorm ways that this step could be automated. What kind of machines would be needed? Draw a top-down view of a barn that uses your ideas. Explain what you drew.