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Cattle are ruminants

  • digestionwCattle digest fibrous feed in their 3 fore stomachs – rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum which is the true gastric stomach.
  • Digestion of fibre produces Carbon dioxide and methane.
  • Cattle divide their day into periods of:
    • Grazing – taking in feed using their prehensile (grasping) tongue and bottom teeth. Feed goes into the rumen via the abomasum (honey comb bag) where heavy objects collect.
    • Chewing. The feed is chewed, formed into a bolus with saliva (100 litres/day) and swallowed.
    • Rumination. Here feed is given time to ferment in the large rumen.
    • Regurgitation. This is where the bolus is belched up again for a second mastication of 300 chews.
    • Swallows feed again into the omasum (the butcher’s bible) for final grinding.
    • Then passage into the abomasum for gastric digestion.
    • Idling. The cow stands appearing to do nothing. It’s time of rumen fermentation.
    • Resting – lying down
    • Drinking. A milking cow drinks on average 70 litres of water per day.
    • Sleeping. The cow sleeps for short periods during the night.
  • Dairy cows have to spend at least 8 - 10 hours/day grazing to meet their nutritional needs.
  • They are driven by "metabolic hunger" or the need to eat to meet their genetic urge to lactate.
  • A cow makes between 30 and 40,000 grazing bites/day.
  • Our modern dairy cows have been bred for this kind of life which many welfarists are now questioning.
  • If they don’t eat enough, they use up body reserves and get thin. This then triggers problems like anoestrus (non cycling) and farmers use intra vaginal devices and inductions to control their breeding activity, both of which have negative welfare images in the marketplace.

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