Ruminants are mammals with specialised digestive systems that use fermentation processes to gain nutrients from plant material. Cattle, sheep, horses, deer, goats and camels are all ruminants.
Each part of the digestive system from the mouth to the intestine has a part to play in the breakdown of plant material. The adaptation that sets ruminants apart from other animals is their complex multi-chambered stomach comprising the rumen, omasum, reticulum and abomasum.
- Ruminant digestion – article
- Ruminant digestion – interactive
- Explore a cow’s digestive system – activity
- Label a cow’s digestive passage – interactive
Cows are an amazing species, turning something that a human could never eat into something that is really, really nutritious and allows them to produce a lot of milk and grow babies.
Have a look at DairyNZ’s FeedRight resources for a more in-depth look at ruminant digestion.
Image: © DairyNZ.