Among the most popular questions I feel that each and every person wanting to start out in raising cattle or even know anything about cattle and cattle will ask is,”What do they eat??” The answer to this question isn’t simple as you may think: What they eat doesn’t just begin and end with grass or hay or grain or a combination of all three! However, let’s not settle on the”what.” ” Why do cows eat or have to eat hay or marijuana? What’s so particular about grass and hay that it must be the complete or most frequent reply to the what-do-they-eat question?
This means that cows are ruminants, or animals that have their stomach divided into four chambers, the biggest being the rumen. Other chambers would be the Reticulum, the Omasum, as well as the Abomasum. The rumen is capable of holding up to 50 gallons of digesta (that’s fluids, solids and even gases), and having a large healthier population of countless microflora to help break down the forages that a cow eats. Cows don’t chew the feed or grass they eat when they clamp down on it–they bite then consume, frequently without chewing much. When they rest, they burp or regurgitate it back up to break it down further.
The clincher to the ability of a cow to survive–let alone thrive–on roughage like grass and legumes is the bacteria or microflora that live inside the cow’s rumen. There are mainly two kinds of bacteria which exist in the rumen: fiber microbes and starch microbes. The fiber microbes are the most important to a bovine’s digestive system due to their ability to break down and digest fiber in a cow’s diet, regardless of what she eats, which is their primary function. Starch germs are more for every time a bovine is consuming grain like corn that contain a great deal of starch, and their primary purpose is to break down the starch in the grains, more so than the roughage fiber that comes with such”hot” rations. Unless an animal is on a finishing diet, most cattle will have a larger population of fiber microbes in their rumen because of their high forage diets.
Thriving on an anaerobic environment, they have a life-span of 15 minutes and thus have a huge turn-over rate. The dead microbes supply the cow much of her protein needs along with the protein from the plant sources that by-pass the rumen. End products of this digestive process (including the synthesization of protein and B vitamins) include volatile fatty acids (Wildlife Removal New York City), which provide an energy source for the bunny. Yet he microbes themselves can’t fully function and live on plant fibre alone. Their nutritional requirements are very similar to the nutrition needs of the animal they live in. They also need water, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins from the plants and nutritional supplements the cow receives on a daily basis so as to function and keep producing subsequent generations of microbes.
There’s a reason why a cow will literally starve to death on a diet too high in fiber and also low in protein. A cow’s stomach only has so much space to hold digesta in, so the more poor feedstuffs she eats the fuller her stomach will be and the less she’ll eat. All that feed she is eating will just stay in her tummy for a long time period or until she gets a decent – to high-protein supplement. When that occurs, then the poor quality feed will go through her system much faster and she will be able to eat more of that poor feed more often. All because those teeny-tiny living organisms just need a boost of protein to help digest all that roughage!
Thus a cow’s ability to become”feed efficient” is dependent on the microbes inside her rumen. The greater the microbial population within her rumen, the more forage can be properly used and digested efficiently. The higher the protein content in the forage or supplied by nutritional supplements, the greater the cow will eat and the greater the microbial population. The higher the microbial population, the more protein and VFAs the cow will receive. Put that all together and she will gain weight!
Like most of ruminant animals, cows lack upper front incisors, though they do have upper molars for chewing and grinding. Her lower front incisors are curved and flat out so she can grasp grass simpler. She has a powerful tongue that is used to wrap around a sward of grass, pull it in her mouth and tear it out of its stems. When she’s resting, she’ll regurgitate it back up and rechew it over again. A cow will produce 200 litres of saliva per day–this is so that she could more easily swallow and digest the forage she eats, and offers an ideal environment for the rumen microbes.
Cows can eat what they eat–being hay and grass, among other fodder–due to their four-chambered stomachs, the structure of the mouths and teeth, and most importantly, the microbes that reside in their rumen. Rumen microbes are the most important because they are responsible for breaking down fibre in the plant material that the cow eats. Without them, she would never be able to eat as coarse a plant as bud without some level of detrimental affect to her body and her life.