Ku (h) rios: Cattle trainers show what animals really can do
stingaden – Her weight in excess of 900 kilograms does not prevent Amy from stepping up her own small stage. The platform standing in front of the nearly six-year-old cow in the meadow is just 60cm in diameter – but thanks to Markus Holzmann’s training, Emmi manages the amazingly delicate balancing act.
The 21-year-old from Steingaden in Ostallgäu is known there as “whisperer cow” — a nickname he didn’t pick himself, he asserts.
For years, Holzmann not only trained Amy on his family’s farm, but he also trained his bull Hugo, Prinz and a few other livestock and how to handle each other.
The 21-year-old is now making his money as a “cow trainer”. Above all, it helps animal owners who hobby handling livestock and horses, he says. For this he travels throughout Germany and Switzerland. Some animal owners also bring their cattle and horses to it on the edge of the Alps, where they can train on a training course that resembles a large-scale canine sports facility.
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Laura Runkle also shows her visitors that cows can do more than just eat, give milk and deliver meat. In Großbottwar (Ludwigsburg district), the 22-year-old has trained several cows to ride – now also on the school children’s schedule. “We’re a local school subject,” Rankel says.
But the farmers also took her advice: “They say, what’s the use of a cow if she doesn’t want to work with me?”
Cows that go to the toilet: Researchers want to train calves at home
In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, they are also looking for hidden talents in cattle – but with different goals. Jan Langbin researches at the Research Institute for Livestock Biology in Dumerstorf how to “clean” calves.
When urine and feces of cattle meet, ammonia is formed. This in turn harms the environment, health and climate. If you can collect large and small businesses separately, these emissions can be avoided.
In the first experiments, Dummerstorf researchers trained 11 of 16 calves to such an extent that they did more than three-quarters of their small jobs on the toilet. The researchers used food as a reward and a splash of cold water as punishment.
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The result: According to the researchers, the calves were as successful as the children in toilet training.
More tests under real barn conditions to follow now.
Cow in training has more fun in life
“If you ask the animals the right questions, you can discover a lot,” says Langbein. There is nothing wrong with Ku(h)nststücke in Allgäu or riding a cow in Baden-Württemberg.
“I don’t see a problem with that at all, as long as it’s about positive conditioning — that is, about rewards,” says Langbein. It is also important not to train anything that interferes with normal behaviour.
Then the cattle get busy and communicate with people. “A cow like this definitely has more fun in life than a dairy cow in the barn,” says Langbin.
A spokeswoman for the Bavarian Farmers Association (BBV) says training also plays an important role there. “For dairy cows, for example, milking is associated with a positive memory.” Concentrated feed is provided to the animals in the milking robot so they can go back there.
But “good and conscientious interactions” with farmers also plays a role, says the association’s spokeswoman – for example by addressing them in a calm voice and petting them.
Training Animals Respectfully: ‘It Should Be Worth It’
Offers such as hiking trips or cow training in the Allgäu are generally accepted by farmers. These have enabled “consumers to come into contact with agriculture and farm animals that are often lost,” says the BBV spokeswoman. But she emphasizes that, for all their abilities, cows should not be humane. This may lead to the “misinterpretation of animal behavior patterns by humans”.
“Cow whisperer” Marcus Holzmann isn’t worried about that. He emphasizes that you have to respect animals. This is also what he wants to convey to his visitors. “A cow doesn’t do anything it doesn’t really want to.”
Cow Emmi also shows this soon after her work. Holzmann followed in the designated direction only reluctantly. “It must have been worth it,” says Holzmann, laughing.
Cover photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand / dpa