Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fun Cow Facts

There are a lot of things about cattle that are so cool! If you don't spend time around them, you may never know these facts.

Some of the following facts are important to know if you are a rancher--it determines how you handle cattle and what you feed them. But other things are just for fun! I wanted you to know some of the interesting things about cattle.
  • A cow only has front teeth on the bottom jaw. They eat grass, so the most important teeth for a cow are the back molars that chew. The tongue is very important to a cow.
  • The cow's tongue is very long and very strong. To eat grass, they actually tear it from the roots. They wrap their tongue around it and close their jaws on it.  Since they don't have top incisor teeth, they can't cut it off. So if you look at grass that a cow has eaten, it is ragged and torn. If a horse eats it, it is cropped very short and smooth.
  • The tongue is rough and scratchy, somewhat like a cat's. But cows don't lap water like cats, instead they suck it up.  
  • Cows love salt! We feed a mineral mix free choice, but we mix it with salt to keep them from eating too much. But cows also love to taste salt. They will lick your sweaty hand and arm if allowed--maybe even your face!
  • Cows have four compartments to their stomach, allowing them to digest grass and hay. When a cow tears grass from the ground, they roll it in their mouth and chew it a bit to roll it into a small ball, called a bolus. They then swallow the bolus and it goes to the rumen. The rumen is the largest compartment of their stomach in which the grass and hay begin to break down.
  • A cow can eat on the run--it gives a new meaning to fast food! Cows eat grass fast, consuming as much as they can in a short time. After a time, they lie down or find a nice place to rest and regurgitate the grass boluses back into their mouth to chew again. This is called "chewing their cud."  Cows who are relaxed and well fed may spend a lot of their day chewing their cud! After the bolus is chewed again, the cow swallows it and it starts to move through the rest of the digestive tract until it finally reaches the true stomach, the abomasum where digestion similar to that of a human's stomach takes place.
  • Each individual cow does have a personality. Some are naturally more calm, curious or easily frightened! Certain bloodlines are known for different personalities. My kids all enjoy showing yearling heifers--they get to know them and the cow learns to trust my kids. I talk about show heifers in a previous blog post: Pampered Little Pets.
  • Cattle are prey animals and are mostly concerned with staying safe, but they can be encouraged and taught to handle new situations well.  The perfect example of that is taking them to a fairgrounds where they have never been before, and with their kid at the halter leading them from the trailer and around the fairgrounds, they are calm and comfortable. 
  • Cows, bulls and baby calves all "talk" differently. Of course, I can't understand exactly what they are saying, and it would be easy to project human talk to them, but I can hear the differences in their "moo!"  Bulls often moo louder and deeper. If they are within sight of a strange bull or cows, they will "beller" deep and with their head in an aggressive position. A cow who is talking to her calf will moo softly and short--encouraging her calf to get up and nurse. A cow who is looking for her calf will call loud and long--the "typical" moo that you think of.  When a calf is scared or surprised, his startled moo will bring every cow running to his help! If he is just curious and calls to me, no cows even look his way. And when I drive into the pasture with the feed truck ALL the cattle (bulls, cows and calves) come running and calling to me! I know it is me...not the truck! Yeah, whatever.

The fun facts can go on and on...but I need to get back outside with the cattle! Can you tell I just really LIKE cattle!?

9 comments:

  1. Love your site. We too raise Angus, besides doing row crops. Love the calves this time of year. Come check out our cattle on my blog:
    http://windowontheprairie.com/category/thefarm/cattle/

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  2. Very cool; hadn't been here in a while. Great educational tool!
    Kirk

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  3. Have you ever seen bulldog (achondroplasia) calves or does this happen very often?

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  4. I have never seen a dwarf calf, Anonymous, but it used to be a fairly common defect. It was identified and the carriers of the gene were not bred for the breed registry again. It has nearly died out in the population. I'm sure one or two happen from time to time, but those kind of defects that impact the life of the animal have been bred out of (or are being bred out of) the population for the most part. Thanks for the question!

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  5. i loved reading about your cows. i drive by a herd every day and every single morning it cheers me up just to see them. sometimes they're licking each other (!!) and other times pushing thru the barbed wire with their heads. evenings they're in a tight group fly swatting each other. i had to really think, why is it this herd brings me so much pleasure? i guess because i grew up in the city, so a bunch of cows is equivalent to being on vacation when we'd drive to the country. now i live in the country and i cannot get over how fascinating hay making is, and i am so grateful for this herd of cows. and i hope that i don't run off the road staring at them!

    ~lytha in rural germany (from seattle)

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  6. I just found your blog. I especially appreciate this statement: "Each individual cow does have a personality." I hadn't realized this until the first time I went out in the field to photograph them. By the time I left they were all lined up at the fence, each with their own unique expression, pushy ones, shy ones, I was hooked! Thanks for the great post. :)

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    1. thanks for your comments, Denise! I do love cows!! When you take time to get to know them, you can really see the different personalities. :)

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  7. We raise cattle also and have saved three in the last two weeks because of the cold weather. Check out my blog when you have time.

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  8. Very cool post... most I knew, some I didn't. Mostly 'cause my hubby grew up on his grandparents' farm and he's told me so many stories. I love cows, I think they are sweet animals.

    Visiting via Kansas Women Bloggers. Will be back soon! Blessings to you.

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