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Everything You Need to Know About Cattle 

Last Updated: 22.04.24


Cows are fascinating animals. It is hard to make a review of a domestic animal and not be subjective, but we are going to write this article about cattle like some reviews about sump pumps for example, or any other objects so that our story is not influenced by the level of cuteness cows have. It’s a hard job, we know, but here we go.

In this article, we are going to talk about everything you need to know about cattle. Their history, the breeds that are being raised, their lifecycle, their reproduction and some other fun stuff that maybe you didn’t know about them and that are going to make you smile.


A short introduction

When we talk about cattle, we talk about cows, bulls, steer, heifer, and veil. We are not just talking about cows. You do not know the difference? It is very simple to identify which is which, and here is how: cows are female cattle that have calves and heifers are the female cattle that haven’t given birth to any calves yet.

The males are also divided into two categories: the bulls, which have mating capacities and the steers, that are castrated or infertile bulls. ‘Veil’ is the generic name given to calves that farmers grow to be about 500 pounds, after which they are killed to be eaten.

Cattle are part of the Bovine family, which also includes buffalos and antelopes. They are raised for their meat, dairy products, and byproducts. The cow’s meat is called beef. The cattle industry brings the most amount of money to the economy but is also known to have negative effects on the environment. 

If we combine the value of the beef and cattle industry, the value we get is as high as 200 billion dollars. Over 25 billion pounds of beef is produced every year and the industry is on the rise. 

There are more than 1000 cattle breeds all over the world. Every one of them has adapted to the regions it lives in and to the specific climates. Some of them have a short history of about 20 or 30 years because they are crossbreeds, but others have a history of several centuries.



Cattle history

Across time, cattle have been domestic animals that were raised in various geographic regions. Because they are animals that do not need sophisticated food and can easily feed on low-quality land grass, on land that could not have been used for crops, for example, they were present in many households. 

The ancestor of domestic cattle is the auroch, an extinct animal that was also called urus. It was present in Asia, Europe and the northern parts of Africa. It had a large body and people started to domesticate it eight thousand years ago in India, China, Europe, and Africa. 

Even though the first domesticated cattle remains were found dating back to 6,500 BC, the auroch breed is believed to have lived for almost 10,000 years and the last one is known to have been killed in the 17th century in Poland.

Cattle were brought to the United States by Christopher Columbus as late as 1493 and into South America only in the 1700s.

Believe it or not, cattle were domesticated long after sheep and even dogs. This might have happened because of the auroch’s large size. In the beginning, cattle were raised for food and also for agricultural labor. Later on, people realized that for some labor work the cattle could be replaced by horses.


Cattle reproduction

Cattle live in herds. That is why many farms keep herds for breeding so that they produce calves. A trait similar to humans is that a cow is pregnant for nine months. Newborns are usually brought to life in fall or during spring. A cow can give birth to a calf only after she is 2 years old.

A newborn calf usually weighs around 70 pounds. Unfortunately, before giving birth, for two months, the cow does not produce milk and holds her energy for the calf’s full development inside the womb.

Unlike human babies, newborn calves are able to walk within a few hours after birth. Because they are not able to protect their bodies from disease, they have to drink their mother’s milk, that’s where they get their antibodies from. Their intestines have a special feature that helps them absorb the antibodies directly into their bloodstream.

After being able to walk, they become very energetic and are also in the mood to play. Because cattle stomachs are different from the human stomachs, having four chambers, a calf has to be fed cow milk from their mother for at least another two to three weeks. 

One of the chambers in their stomachs called the rumen fully develops after about three weeks. The rumen has an important role in their digestion, as without it they are not able to digest grass.



Cattle products

As we have said before, the cattle industry is at its peak. But an important thing you should know is that only 40 percent of a cow is represented by meat. The rest 60 percent is transformed into all sorts of by-products.

Some of the by-products made out of cows go into margarine and marshmallows, but the others are not edible. Other by-products are soaps, leather, cosmetics, and, believe it or not,  buttons. 

Beef is known to be very nutritious meat, that is why a lot of people started eating it and then realized that they began to like it. Beef has the recommended dose of B12 vitamin and is also full of iron. It has good-quality protein that is easily assimilated by the body. 

It usually doesn’t contain that much fat, but some kinds of beef, like Black Angus beef, have more. That is why Angus beef is more expensive. The fat makes it taste better and, as you probably know, people like tasty food.


Other interesting facts about cows

Contrary to popular belief, cows are intelligent animals. Because they live in groups, a lot of researchers were interested in studying their behavior. They found out that cows can remember as many as 50 faces. They are able to recognize their calves for the rest of their lives.

They also have best friends and they suffer when they are separated. In their behavioral studies, researchers have found that they even cry. They can have other animal and human friends, not just other cows.

A cow can live up to 25 years and most of them would if they wouldn’t be killed earlier for their products. In India, there are almost 300 million cows, because, as you probably know, cows are considered sacred in India. That is almost a third of the cattle population all over the world, which is up to 1 billion.

Cattle are red and green color blind so they can’t distinguish the red color. They are not annoyed by red flags. This is a myth originated from the Spanish corridas where they use a red-colored flag that is supposed to make the bulls angry.

Cattle produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is also present in small amounts inside the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a product of their digestive system. Because the cattle industry is so widespread, the large quantity of methane released by cattle into the atmosphere is considered to be harmful to the environment.

Scientists recommend that people try to reduce the consumption of beef because that is the only way to reduce the cattle breeding industry and reduce the number of cattle. That would reduce the toxic methane in the atmosphere and keep the atmosphere healthy for a longer period of time.



Final considerations

Cows are beautiful animals and are also playful and have an interesting emotional life. They are intelligent and live in large groups. They also have a large body, which makes them a good choice if you want to raise them for their meat. If you do not want to eat their meat, you can raise them for dairy products.

Cows produce an average of 8 gallons of milk per day, which can be used to make cheese, butter or to be sold as it comes. 

If you want to be environmentally friendly, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop raising cattle. The problem is with the farms that raise thousands of cattle and want to increase their production.



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