Capping off this very busy week of events was a day with not one, but two very special outings. (btw, you’ll note that school is still in session. We’re in drawn out last half-days….) So, after school, we went on an outing with Clark’s Cub Scout dens. A parent of the boys’ classmate is an instructor at Cook College, Rutgers, which is where they have a farm as it is the school for pre-veterinary school and possibly agriculture and I don’t know what else. She agreed to take us around on a tour of the animals. First up, the horses. They have retired race horses living there and we were amused that one of them has a fly allergy. That’s a lousy allergy to have if you are a horse! Fortunately a fly mask keeps her happy and healthy during the summer.
They do various things with the horses, including research about exercise. Check this out–a treadmill for horses!! It’s humongous!
Next up: the pigs. First we went into the section where the sows go when they are ready to give birth. These pigs are ENORMOUS. We saw a little of piggies that had just been born 4 days before, plus a few other litters that were a bit older. The piglets were absolutely adorable and there was much squealing about how cute they were.
Finally: the main attraction. The school has a fistulated (or, cannulated) cow. You can read lots about what that is, and I encourage you to read Mary Roach’s book Gulp, which covers this, how long it’s been in practice, and the gentleman in Canada who had it occur naturally in the early 19th century. Basically there is a hole in the side of the cow fitted with a device and a plug. Remove the plug and voila! You are looking into the cow’s enormous stomach (or, one of them.) We all had the opportunity to reach in, if desired. Honestly, I had really been looking forward to this. I had heard about, as well as read about in James Herriot books. Who could pass that up? So what’s in there? Well, a bunch of wet chewed up feed that doesn’t look much different from before it is eaten. Speaking of eating, the entire time that the cow was being talked about and having people look in there she was just very placidly eating and not at all bothered by us. Her name was Hyacinth.
Both kids were brave and had a feel.
And finally I got my turn. Up close you could hear a lot of rumblings and gas inside her. Sticking your hand in it just felt..hot and hay filled. We learned there are 200-300lbs of food in a cow’s stomach. That’s a lot! They really are very large animals.
Then I went for it and pushed my arm in pretty far. After the feed there was a big empty space,which is where the methane gas goes. I ran my hands along the wall of the cavity and could feel the papilla that aid in the cows digestion (I think that’s what it does.) As I was feeling that there was a big blurp of the gas, which was startling.
Educational and fascinating! What a neat experience to have. And of course Facebook went nuts over the pictures because you’d better believe I posted myself with my hand in a cow.
And that was the first part of our exciting day.