How and why cows have holes drilled into their stomachs

Jun 01, 2018
04:36 A.M.

Drilling holes into cows might sound a terrible thing to do, but it actually is quite ordinary and a lifesaving procedure.


The microorganisms such as bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and archaea living in the rumen of cows help them digest the fibrous components of the feed.

That's why taking these microbes from one source and putting them in other cattle suffering from indigestion is such a popular practice.

According to Modern Farming, to access these microbes from the rumen of a healthy cow, a hole is surgically created in the belly of the animal.

This allows for an easy access to the rumen from outside, and it can be used to donate to other cattle suffering from bellyache or other kinds of indigestion related problems.


The permanent hole placed between an internal organ and the outside world is called a rumen fistula. Placing this in a healthy cow is completely normal and a straightforward procedure that takes an hour and a half at the most.

The surgery is performed by giving local anesthesia to the cow and the rumen is surgically attached to the skin as well as the body wall. A cannula made out of durable plastic is inserted to keep the hole created between the rumen and the skin open.

A removable cap is used for the cannula so that the rumen can be easily accessed or sealed as per requirement. The healing process takes about four to six weeks, following which the cow is ready to donate rumen for other sickly cattle.

Dr. Brian Aldridge, the specialist and clinical professor in large animal internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Illinois, told Modern Farming, "It’s amazing how important those rumen bugs are.”

He further stated that they are essential for the cattle's digestive function as well as for the way "it feels." The microbes even produce vitamins and minerals that are important for the health of the cow.

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