Got Guts?

What is a ruminant animal? How many stomachs does a cow have? Can people digest grass? Linn County fair goers sought out the answers to these questions during Youth Day Thursday, June 29, 2017. This activity was designed based on the National Ag in the Classroom Matrix lesson “Got Guts.”

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A ruminant is a animal with a multi-chambered stomach. Cows have 4 main chambers- rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum.

To demonstrate the process kids digested their own hay with water, hot water and lemon juice.

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With each step came a new chamber.

  1. Cud, partially digested food from a ruminant animal which is regurgitated to the mouth for further chewing- “Chew” the hay and place in cup
  2. Rumen, good bacteria helps break down food- Add water and stir 
  3. Reticulum, sorts the particles and brings the large pieces back to be regurgitated in the form of cud- Pick out large particles
  4. Omasum, small chamber that helps with flow to abomasum- Add hot water and stir
  5. Abomasum, contains strong acids and enzymes- Add lemon juice and stir

ruminant hay

Starting with the dry hay and moving counter clockwise we can see the hay being digested through the 4 chambers.

Question: How many stomachs does a cow have?

Answer: One with multiple chambers! 😉

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Last summer I did a similar activity during 4-H vet camp and kids really enjoyed the hands-on portion of the lesson. This could easily be incorporated into a classroom. Make it a multi-unit lesson or complement another lesson by conducting this activity.

Would you like to see agriculture in your Linn County school? Contact mball@ifbf.org to schedule a classroom visit.

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