Cattle are domesticated bovine farm animals that are raised for their meat, milk, or hides or for draft purposes.
Cattle are large quadrupedal ungulate mammals with two-toed cloven hooves and a four-chambered stomach. This stomach is an adaptation to help digest tough grasses. Cattle can be horned or hornless, depending on the breed. The horns come out on either side of the head above the ears and are a simple shape, usually curved upwards but sometimes down. A cattle's face has thick hair, wide mouth for eating grass, wet nose, big eyes with long lashes, large ears that can turn, and horns.
Ruminant: A cow often swallows grass whole. After a cow has eaten its fill and is resting, they return or regurgitate the grass from their stomach to their mouth and rechew it with their very large back teeth to break it down further. This is called "chewing the cud". Other ruminants like deer, sheep and goats also do this but horses do not. This means that cattle do not need as much food as horses, even though they are about the same size.
Genetics and Reproduction
Like all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their young. Cows are very protective of their calves. The gestation period for a cow is nine months. A newborn calf weighs approximately 35 to 45 kg. Cattle can live as long as 25 years old.
Growth Rate & Stages
When it comes to cattle, the male is first a bull calf and if left intact becomes a bull; if castrated he becomes a steer and in about two or three years grows to an ox. The female is first a heifer calf, growing into a heifer and becoming a cow.
Ecology and Habitats
Most cattle are raised on vast stretches of land, with the herds being allowed to graze on grasses and scrublands. This perhaps seems to be one of the ways in utilizing land unsuited for agriculture. The majority of them can survive on marshes, heath, moors, and semi-desert terrain. However, the degree of hardiness varies from one breed to another. The older breeds like Jersey have a greater adjustment level than the modern ones, which seem to lag behind in versatility. This is why farmers mostly prefer raising the older cattle varieties.
Dietary Needs and Habits
Cattle are herbivorous, meaning that they are plant-eating (primarily grass) animals. Eating grass is called "grazing". They have very strong tongues and strong lower front teeth that help them to graze. Unlike a horse, cattle do not have any upper front teeth. Cattle, like other bovids, are ruminants. They have a unique digestive system that allows them to digest cellulose and other otherwise unpalatable plant materials with the aid of symbiotic microorganisms living in their rumen, or first stomach. Cattle eat mainly grasses and leaves. They need to eat about 70 kg (150 lbs) of food every day. They also need water every day and are dependent on a ready water supply.
Cattle are social animals, naturally living in groups or herds. In a herd, individuals support each other by watching for predators, grooming each other, and helping each other find food and water. Among the cows in a herd, there is a system of dominance with one cow the most dominant and the others ranked down to the lowest individual. There is also often a cow that acts as a leader and initiates movement to new feeding areas Cattle can make a range of noises, from a gentle "moo" to a low growl in warning or to attract females, especially among bulls. When they are angry or upset, they can bellow or bawl quite loudly. Calves are said to bawl, cows moo and bulls bellow. Bulls can often be fierce and dangerous, especially in the presence of their herd of cows and heifers. In the wild, they will often fight each other over mating rights and their herds of cows and will use their horns to gore each other. Some bulls will fight to the death: others will fight until either one of the bulls decides to run off. They also protect the herds from other animals such as wolves, jackals, bears, tigers and lions. On farms, bulls are usually quieter and more docile and can be led by a nose-ring by their owners, but they can be aggressive with other bulls and with strange people or animals who might get too near his herd.
The domestication of cattle started around 8000-10,000 years ago from wild aurochs , which were huge ox-like animals, equaling the size of an elephant, thriving about 10,500 years ago.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
Cattle are commonly raised as livestock for meat (beef or veal, see beef cattle), for milk (see dairy cattle), and for hides, which are used to make leather. They are used as riding animals and draft animals (oxen, which pull carts, plows and other implements). Another product of cattle is their dung, which can be used to create manure or fuel. Dairy cattle Dairy cattle are kept and raised specially for milking. Herds of cows are kept and are regularly mated with a bull, so that they produce calves. This keeps the milk supply going. However, some commercial dairy farms do not keep bulls because of the concern that such bulls are very dangerous when being handled. Instead, their cows are artificially inseminated with bull semen that is stored kept frozen in liquid nitrogen, and is "bred" by a person who artificially inseminates cows for a living. Some large dairy herds, especially those used to produce organic or "free-range" milk are kept on pasture where there is a good supply of grass and the fields are relatively small, but not so small that they are not able to graze regularly during the season when grass is growing. This is because the cows need to be brought in for milking every day, twice a day, and should not have far to travel. A number of dairy herds are kept in barns or sheds for most of their lives and are given feed that has been especially made for them. This feed contains grain like corn, hay including grass and alfalfa or clover, and fermented chopped feed called silage that is usually made from corn, wheat or barley. Cows are often kept in stalls where they have enough room to lay down comfortably. Such large dairies must supply straw or saw dust for the cows to rest on without getting sore from the hard concrete floor. Beef cattle Beef cattle are bred and raised specifically to provide meat or beef. Steers are the best type for this purpose because they can be kept in herds without fighting each other. Heifers are also often used for beef, especially those that are not suitable to be used in a breeding herd. The cows of beef cattle are used to give birth to and raise calves for meat. They are not usually used for milk, although some breeds of cattle are used for both. These type of cattle are called dual purpose breeds. Beef cattle are often allowed graze over large areas because they do not have to be brought in every day like dairy cattle. The biggest farms in the world are cattle stations or ranches where they run beef cattle. Oxen Oxen are cattle trained as work animals."Ox" is used to describe just one. They are castrated males (steers). An ox is over four years old and grown to full size when it begins to work. Oxen are used for pulling plows and wagons, for hauling heavy loads like logs or for powering different machines such as mills and irrigation pumps. Oxen are most often used in teams of two for light work such as plowing. In the past, very large teams of fourteen to twenty oxen were used for heavy work such as logging. The oxen are put into pairs and each pair must work together. A wooden yoke is put about the neck of each pair, so that the work is shared across their shoulders. Oxen are chosen from certain breeds with horns, since the horns hold the yoke in place when the oxen lower their heads, back up or slow down. Oxen must be trained from a young age. The owner must make or buy as many as a dozen yokes of different sizes as the animals grow. Ox teams are steered by shouted commands, whistles or the noise of a whip crack Oxen can pull harder and longer than horses, especially for very large loads. They are not as fast as horses, but they are less often injured or less likely to startle than horses are. Many oxen are still in use all over the world, especially in developing or decentralized countries.