The Ruminant is a Unique, Green, Recycling Machine.
A ruminant is the only specie to have four compartments to the stomach. And each of them have a unique purpose. The rumen-or the fermentation vat is a huge compartment. This is why they (cows, sheep, goats) often look “fat”. Ruminants don’t have top incisor teeth and the rumen does most of the digesting. Ruminants regurgitate a cud because the rumen functions to churn the things they eat into little vomit balls that can be spit up (regurgitated) chewed and swallowed again. This whole process occurs in an environment deprived of oxygen so that the bacteria that live here can do something few other species can-eat grass!
Once the food is ready to move from the rumen it heads to the reticulum which is nicknamed the honeycomb. The lining of this stomach compartment looks exactly like a honey comb, and it acts like a net to catch things that shouldn’t be there. Ruminants don’t actually eat metal on purpose (those cartoons that say goats eat tin cans are wrong). However, on occasion, when a big mouth full of grass turns out to be more than that, heavy things like rocks and metal land in the reticulum, and they’re not supposed to move past it. In fact, we put a magnet in the reticulum of the cow to attract potentially dangerous things like metal.
After making it through the reticulum the food is off to the omasum. The omasum is called the manyplies. It gets this nickname from the appearance of the many layered folds it contains. Each of these folds serve to dry out the food. The Saliva a ruminant produces plays an important role in digestion, and it coats all the food they eat. It is in the manyplies where things get wrung out and dried. Now, after all of this preprocessing it’s off to the abomasum.
The abomasum is called true stomach because it looks a lot like the stomach most other species have. It functions like that as well. After all of the pre-processing of the aforementioned stomach compartments what makes it to the abomasum is now ready to deliver nutrients to the animal.
After thinking about the digestive system of a ruminant one may begin to gain a greater appreciation for all the things that can make them sick and this is why we focus so much on what they eat. At the end of the day because of their digestive systems, ruminants are the worlds’ greatest recyclers. They eat things no one else can, they enable the world to have a plentiful supply of protein that could not exist any other way. We owe a lot to the ruminant and that’s why they’re at the heart of everything we do at Bayside Bovine Veterinary Services.