Home True TRUE – ‘Researchers Monitoring Cow Digestion Through Windows in Their Sides’

TRUE – ‘Researchers Monitoring Cow Digestion Through Windows in Their Sides’

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on May 20, 2014

Circulating reports claim that cows have been fitted with ‘windows’ that allow researchers direct access to the rumens of the animals to monitor how food is processed.

Brief Analysis:
The claims are true. In fact, the technique has been used in various locations around the world for many years. Via the windows, called cannulas or fistulas, scientists can easily access the contents of a cow’s rumen and better ascertain nutrient requirements.

Images Reveal How farmers are monitoring cows ‘windows’ in their sidesResearchers in Switzerland have fitted 14 cows with cannulas, pictured, in their sides that are cut directly into the cow’s digestive tract, and fitted with a plug. The 8-inch (20cm) holes allow farmers to see how food is being processed, and to analyse the animal’s energy efficiency

Cow Window Story

Detailed Analysis:
While the story may seem far-fetched at first blush, it is actually true. In fact, such ‘windows’ have been fitted to cows and other farm animals around the world for many years.
A 2003 report originally published in The Lantern explained:

Finding the best nutritional elements to feed domestic animals is a high priority in boosting their health. Research conducted at Ohio State is helping to find this combination with the help of cannulated cows.

‘Cannulated cows are the same as all other cows in the herd except that they are fitted with an item called a cannula,’ said Natasha Weaver, a senior in animal science. ‘Basically, the animals have surgery performed upon them that creates a passageway in the side of the animal so researchers can perform readings on what takes place in the cow’s rumen.’

Cannulas Allow Easy Access

Researches can use the cannulas to directly access the rumens of the animals and extract grass or other foods they have eaten. The samples can then be analysed to determine the best feed combinations and improve nutrition recommendations for livestock.

Animal Welfare Concerns

Animal welfare activists have decried the practise as being cruel and unhealthy for the animals. However, researchers maintain that cannulated cows do not experience pain when being examined. And, the cows are anaesthetised when the cannulas are fitted.

In fact, according to The Lantern article, cannulated cows may be healthier than their ‘unwindowed’ herd mates:

The digestion of food for nutrients in the rumen is done by millions of microorganisms. The abundance of microbes also keeps the cannulated cow healthy, often the healthiest in the herd, Weaver said.

‘You would think that by having an opening in their sides would allow outside microbes to enter and infect the cows, but with there being such a numerous presence of natural microbes already in the rumen, the new microbes cannot compete for nutrients to survive,’ Weaver said.

Because these cows are so healthy, some farmers keep a cannulated cow on the farm to help improve the health of the other animals in the herd.

‘Basically, the cannulated cows serve as a rumen fluid donor to sick animals. This is done by extracting rumen fluid contents from the cannulated cow and feeding it to the sick cow,’ Eastridge said. ‘The microorganisms in the fluid multiply and take the place of the bad organisms in the sick cow and make the cow healthy again.’

Cannulated cows are sometimes called fistulated cows. The practise is also regularly carried out on other ruminant farm animals, including sheep.

That said, the practise is not as common as some protest messages imply.  Many farmers around the world will likely never have the need or desire to use such “cow windows” and may not even be aware of the practise.

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,