Home Animal 30 Cow Facts: Name, Anatomy, Digestion and Hardware Disease

30 Cow Facts: Name, Anatomy, Digestion and Hardware Disease

by Sankalan Baidya
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cow facts

Before we start with our list of cow facts, we will like to ask you a simple question. Just how much do you know about these animals? You eat beef or you drink milk or eat milk derivatives but we are pretty sure that you don’t know much about the animal from which all those food items are derived. So, let us delve deep into the world of cows and find out how amazing they are. Let’s start with our list of facts about cows…

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Artiodactyla
Family Bovidae
Subfamily Bovinae
Genus Bos
Species B. taurus
Binomial Name Bos taurus

Cow Facts: 1-5 | The Various Name

1. Surprise! Cow is just used colloquially. The actual term is Cattle. Some people call these animals as Bovines. To get even more colloquial, cow usually refers to a female while bull refers to a male.

2. Truth is, different places in the world have different names. For instance, there are places where a non-castrated male or bull will be called an ‘Intact’. In Australia, bulls that are unmarked are called ‘Micky’.

3. In Canada or the USA, a bovine – irrespective of sex – if unbranded, will be referred to as ‘Maverick’.

4. This may sound a bit weird but here is one of the most surprising cow facts you will come across: An adult female bovine is called a ‘cow’ if she has given birth to at least 1 calf. In some places, to become a cow, a female bovine needs to give birth to at least 2 calves.

5. There are places where a young female bovine who has given birth to just one calf will be called as ‘first-calf heifer’.

Cow Facts: 6-10 | The Various Name

6. What’s a ‘heifer’? It is a female bovine that is under the age of 3 years and is yet to give birth to even a single calf.

7. In United States, males that have been castrated are called ‘steers’. Older steers in different parts of the world are called ‘bullocks’.

8. Calves or either sexes are called ‘calves’ until they are weaned. Once they are weaned, they will be called as ‘weaners’ or ‘feeder calves’ until they attain the age of 1 year. When their age is between 1 to 2 years, they will be called as ‘stirks’ or ‘yearlings’.

9. In New Zealand, Canada and Australia, bulls that were castrated late or were improperly castrated are known as ‘stag’. There are countries where males that have been incompletely castrated are called ‘rig’.

10. A close-to-calving heifer or a cow is referred to as ‘springer’. ‘Beef cattle’ is the cattle that has been raised for beef consumption. ‘Dairy cattle’ is the cattle that has been raised for milk production.

Cow Facts: 11-15 | Cow Anatomy – Locomotion and Stomach

11. Cows are quadrupedal. This means that they walk on four legs. They have cloven hooves. This means that their hooves are divided into two toes.

12. Cows are also called ruminants. This means that they have a different type of digestive system which is highly specialized for digesting plants that cannot be easily digested.

13. They don’t really have four stomachs. That’s a myth. They have only one stomach. However, that single stomach has four compartments. Those compartments are named as:

  • Rumen
  • Reticulum
  • Omasum
  • Abomasum

14. The smallest compartment is the Reticulum. This is often called as the ‘honeycomb’. Rumen on the other hand is the largest compartment.

15. The compartment or chamber called Omasum is where the nutrients and water content from the food are absorbed. This chamber also often goes by the name ‘many piles’. The Abomasum is the ‘true stomach’ of a cow and is very much like the stomach of a human.

Cow Facts: 16-20 | Digestion

16. Cows have something called ‘cud chewing’. It is a process in which they regurgitate the food and re-chew it. Regurgitation means, expelling food through esophagus all the way up to the mouth.

17. What cows do is when they feed, they will simply swallow the food and store it in Rumen. They will later find a calm spot and regurgitate only a mouthful of the food and chew.

18. A cow will use its molars to chew on the regurgitated food called as the cud. The food will then break down into small particles and swallow it back. The reswallowed food goes back into Rumen where specialized microbes start digesting it.

19. The microorganisms decompose carbohydrates and cellulose and convert them into fatty acids, which are cattle’s primary metabolic fuel. These microbes also ammonia, urea etc. (which are non-protein nitrogenous sources) and synthesize them into fatty acids.

20. The microbes reproduce right inside the Rumen. As new generations come in, older generations of the microbes die and the dead cells then pass into the digestive tract. The dead cells get partially digested providing high quality protein to the cattle.

Cow Facts: 21-25 | Digestion

21. The partially digested food in the Rumen then passes into the Reticulum. This section is highly specialized and is designed to do two primary functions. First, the cud that has been digest after regurgitation goes into the Reticulum where it is softened and smaller cud wads are formed.

22. The Reticulum also traps all the unnecessary things that the cow shouldn’t have eaten in the first place such as wires, fencing parts, rocks, metal scraps etc. This is the reason why the Reticulum is also known as Hardware Stomach.

23. The name ‘honeycomb’ if used for Reticulum simply because it has a lining that looks like honeycomb.

24. The cud that goes into reticulum goes through further digestion and breakdown before it is passed on to the third compartment called Omasum. This compartment is blessed with several folds through which the food passes.

25. Inside the Omasum, as the food passes through the folds, it is squeezed. This squeezing breaks down the cud even further and extracts the water out of it. Eventually, the food passes into the Abomasum where the digestion process is completed. Essential nutrients are passed into the bloodstream from here and the rest is passed into the intestines.

Cow Facts: 26-30 | Hardware Disease

26. The non-food items that get trapped into the reticulum (such as the metal scraps, rocks, fencing parts, wires, nails etc.) can lead to a problem in cows known as Hardware Disease.

27. The Hardware Disease is a condition where sharp heavy objects caught by the Reticulum of a cow can push through a part of the wall of Reticulum and can reach the peritoneal cavity, leading to severe inflammation. This can happen the Reticulum contracts during the digestion.

28. In worse cases, those sharp heavy and dense material can puncture right through the Reticulum and reach all the way up to the heart sac and pierce it.

29. There are various symptoms of the Hardware Disease including reduction in feed intake, deteriorating body condition, reluctance to move, lay down or get up. The cow may have an arched back when it is forced into walking. During defecation and urination, the cow can experience pain and hence, grunt loudly.

30. Metal detectors and magnets are often used to know whether a cow is suffering from Hardware Disease or not. If necessary, ultrasonograph and radiograph may be carried out and under serious conditions, surgery may be required with high antibiotic dosage to reduce inflammation and infection. Movement of the cow may be restricting hoping the the Reticulum will repair the damage.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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