Stepping Into Science is a new series where we will explore exciting science from A-Z. There will also be activity ideas accompanying each post to extend your child’s learning.
Did you know that ‘cows’ are females while the males are actually called ‘bulls’? These creatures are a common sight in farms and pastures all over the world. They provide us with milk, meat and the occasional cow joke. Speaking of which, why do cows have hooves instead of feet? Because they lactose. Get it? Lack..toes…ahem.
Read on to find out the 5 interesting fun facts about our cattle friends!
1) Almost panoramic vision
Cows have almost 360° vision of the world around them. This allows them to look out for predators or humans at almost all angles. While their only blind spot is situated directly behind them, I wouldn’t advise sneaking up on them unless you want a strong back kick from said cow as it defends itself.
Parents’ tip: Challenge your child to look straight ahead while covering one eye, and hold up objects in their peripheral vision. See how many objects your child can spot without looking away!
2) Cows have four digestive compartments in their stomach
Ever heard someone mention how cows have more than one stomach? That’s not true! Ruminants have four compartments in their stomachs; the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum and the abomasum. Each of these compartments has its own unique functions in the cow’s digestive system.
Parents tip: To better understand how a stomach breaks down food, get a clear zipper bag and put some crackers in it. Invite your child to crush the crackers, add some vinegar, and continue crushing! This helps your child to visualise both the physical and chemical processes that happen in the stomach.
3) Cows are ‘ruminants’
Ruminants are cud-chewing animals. While the food that we chew goes straight to the stomach and never comes back up (in most cases), ruminants ferment their food in the rumen and reticulum after chewing them. This produces cud, a portion of food that is regurgitated back into a ruminant’s mouth to be chewed again for the second time. Can you name some other ruminant animals?
Parents’ tip: Visit a farm or the zoo and identify different ruminants. What are some similarities between them?
4) Methane producing animals
That’s right! Cows produce methane and are unfortunately one of the main contributors to the global greenhouse gases. The amount of methane produced by a cow depends on what it eats. Digesting hay and grass produces more methane than corn. Some scientists are currently trying to find alternatives to cow feed that will help to produce less methane. Other scientists are taking a genetic approach by reducing the presence of methane-producing bacteria in a cows’ stomach so that they could breed cows to have less of these bacteria in the future.
Parents’ tip: Did you know that you can reduce methane production simply by changing our food choices. Visit the supermarket with your child and discover sustainable food sources!
To extend young children’s learning, try this activity out with them! Whip out your colouring materials and get them to colour and circle the food found in a cow’s diet. Children can also cut out these food items, match them to the labels, and even ‘feed’ the cow!
Written by Fatin Afiqah bte Musa
Illustrations by Sung Jernin