Digestive System, Part 1: Ruminants

Digestive System, Part 1: Ruminants

Two weeks ago I posted a blog about rabbits and guinea pigs and made a couple of recommendations on what to feed them. This week, I will dive into the topic of the ruminant digestive system. Okay, maybe not dive completely into the topic, but I will scratch the surface.

Ruminants are pretty cool, I mean, without them we wouldn't have steak or the popular outdoor activity of hunting. Cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, elk and deer are all ruminants. Simply put, a ruminant has a four compartment stomach and are able to "ruminate" (chew cud.) These four compartments are the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. Each of these compartments have a specific purpose so the animal can get the most out of their feed.

The rumen is a large fermentation vat that holds forage like hay or straw. The forage is very important and is considered a "scratch factor." The forage needs to scratch the walls of the rumen to stimulate the microbacteria that breaks down the forage. The animal can also "burp" up some of the feed to re-chew to allow for further breakdown and increased nutrient absorption.

The reticulum is a large honeycomb structure that collects large pieces of feed (or hardware such as nails) and prevents it from traveling further down the stomach. Smaller particles can pass through and continue to the omasum. 

The omasum is comparable to the pages of the Bible. There are many, many folds which allows for maximum absorption. The folds increase surface area for nutrients to attach to and be absorbed into the animal. This section absorbs the rest of the liquid and solid waste is passed on to the abomasum.

The abomasum is considered the "true stomach" of a ruminant and is most similar to our stomachs as humans. Unlike the first three compartments, this compartments breaks down food chemically instead of by absorption. If anything is still left, it passes to the small and large intestines for further absorption.

Hopefully this helps and you can now better understand the ruminant digestive system. Stay tuned for next week's article that focuses on hind-gut fermeneters!

As always and until next time,
Aspen Johnson

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