Monday, August 31, 2015

Dairy FAQ: Will that cow bite me?

Showing cows at the county and state fair is always fun for lots of reasons. High on my list are quality time spent with new and old friends in the barns and fueling my competitive fire in the show ring. I've mellowed out a lot this year, but if there's one place I'm competitive, it's in the show ring with my cows.

It's also a great time to visit with fair goers about farming. Over the last few decades, I've had a lot of interesting conversations in those barns and a lot of great questions. It's true what they say...there really is no such thing as a stupid question. If you are wondering about something, it's worth asking.

One question in particular stands out: Will this cow bite me?

It sounds silly, but if you think about it, it makes sense why people would ask that. I'm not a horse person, but I certainly wouldn't stick my hand into a horse's mouth because they might actually bite.

Unlike horses, cows only have one set of teeth. They have a dental pad on top and then a set of bottom teeth. So, technically they can't bite you. Those teeth on the baby calves sure can be sharp, though, so there's always a need to be careful around cows and all livestock.

Cows are herbivores and primarily eat grass, silage (fermented grass...and yes, corn is considered a grass), soybean meal (awesome source of protein), and other crops and byproducts (cottonseed meal, corn distillers grain, etc.). Once they eat and swallow it, they later regurgitate the bolus of food and chew it again. This is called chewing their cud and cows can often be seen doing this when they are laying down.

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