The logistics of a ʀᴜᴍᴇɴ ғɪsᴛᴜʟᴀ are straightforward enough that these cows are common demos at vet school open houses. Just unplug the top, don a shoulder-length plastic sleeve, and in your arm goes into the ʀᴜᴍᴇɴ of a live cow.
Cannulated cows are cattle that have been surgically fitted with a porthole device that allows access to the ʀᴜᴍᴇɴ; the largest compartment in the cow’s stomach. Melissa Hudson, assistant professor of animal science, Missouri State University, said the idea of cannulating animals, such as cattle, came about when a soldier in the Cɪᴠɪʟ Wᴀʀ was sʜᴏᴛ in the side. The ʙᴜʟʟᴇᴛ ᴡᴏᴜɴᴅ would not heal properly and ended up forming a permanent ғɪsᴛᴜʟᴀ, an opening, to the soldier’s stomach.A doctor on sight discovered the soldier’s ғɪsᴛᴜʟᴀ and started to research the way the soldier was digesting his food.
The research learned from the cannulated cows can help educate farmers about the best types of grain to feed their cattle in order for them to perform at their highest level.
The cows had a surgery performed on them at the age of two or three in which a four-inch ғɪsᴛᴜʟᴀ was cut into the left-hand side of the cow to allow access to the ʀᴜᴍᴇɴ. Once the ғɪsᴛᴜʟᴀ is made, it is fitted with a cannula, a plug-like object, to protect the hole from the outside world. The surgery takes about an hour, and the cows are ᴀɴᴇsᴛʜᴇᴛɪᴢᴇᴅ so they don’t experience any ᴘᴀɪɴ.
Cows have four compartments in their stomach, with the largest being the ʀᴜᴍᴇɴ, where most of the animals’ digestion occurs. The digestion of the food and nutrients is done by billions of microorganisms that also keep the cow healthy.
After the cows have been fed, scientists use this ғɪsᴛᴜʟᴀ to observe how the food gets digested. In order to do this, the scientists reach physically into the cow and then feel the digestion’s consistency.
The cows are not bothered by the process and surprisingly this proves beneficial to cow. They still take in food orally and live life practically the same as the other steers on the ranch. They do not feel ᴘᴀɪɴ when students insert their arms into the ʀᴜᴍᴇɴ to add or remove material. The removing of material, such as hay and grain, also does not impact the cow because it can eat more food to replace whatever was removed. If such a cow becomes sɪᴄᴋ the medicine is directly given to the stomach.
Ʀᴜᴍᴇɴ flora from a ғɪsᴛᴜʟᴀted cow helps not only sɪᴄᴋ cows, but also sheep and goats because they share similar digestive systems.