Dairy farmers feed their cows finger-sized magnets to keep them healthy.
While it may sound bizarre, cattle-herders have been making cows eat cylindrical-shaped magnets to protect them from “hardware disease.” It isn’t some new form of ailment, but it certainly owes its origins to modern day pollution.
Hardware disease is caused primarily because cows are notorious for not chewing their food before swallowing. This may seem contradictory to the behavior of the cows that appear to be constantly chewing, but they are in fact chewing cud, semi-digested food that is regurgitated from the stomach.
Cows do not chew much when they are ripping up fresh hay or grass. They swallow large portions with barely any chewing. Their large stomachs are well equipped to “store” the food, which is later regurgitated so that cows can keep on munching at their leisure.
However, this means that when they are literally gorging, they inadvertently take in a lot of unwanted material like nails, tacks, baling wire, and other stray pieces of metal that is hiding among the grass. Digestible food along with such nasty stuff goes right down.
All this metal eventually settles in the reticulum of the ruminant animal. Located at the base of the esophagus, reticulum is the second of four stomach chambers. Here the accumulated metal becomes “hardware disease.” Sharp pieces of metal can poke through the stomach and may even pierce the heart, which is separated only by the soft muscle of the diaphragm. While these are extreme cases, most commonly these pieces of metal may block digestion, ballooning up the cow.
To avoid such a medical catastrophe, magnets are used. A magnet about the size and shape of a finger is placed inside a bolus gun — a long tube that ensures the magnet goes down the cow’s throat — and fed to the cow. The magnet then settles into the reticulum and acts as a trap, pulling and attaching to any stray pieces of metal that the cow swallows.
Dairy farmers have been known to make cows swallow these magnets even as a preventive measure. Costing just a few dollars, these magnets help prevent any metal pieces from causing damage to the soft inners of a cow. To ensure a cow still has a magnet inside her, farmers use a compass.
Hardware disease is a growing epidemic of the modern world, which is littered with stray pieces of metal that these cows eat along with their food. According to a report, 55 to 75 percent of all slaughtered cows had some hardware in their stomachs. While it is harmful to the cows themselves, these pieces of metal can be harmful to humans as well. Fortunately, this low-tech solution is said to work wonders.
[Image Credit | The Financial Gazette,Wikipedia]