Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ode to a Cow

I recently was reading the Genesis account of creation and then later stumbled upon John MacArthur's reflection on cattle in his book, The Battle for the Beginning. Here is his reflection from pages 143–145 - an ode to the marvelous cattle of this world.
"...we begin with “cattle.” Common cattle are remarkable creatures. Their digestive system is a great wonder of creative design. Cows (in common with most ruminants) have four stomachs. Actually, it is probably more accurate to say that their stomach is a complex organ divided into four chambers. When a cow eats grass or hay, the partially chewed fiber passes into the cow’s first stomach chamber, called the rumen. There it ferments for one to two days. The presence of helpful bacteria in the rumen causes the fermentation, beginning the process of breaking down cellulose and converting it into simple sugars. This first chamber of the cow’s stomach is huge—holding the equivalent of nearly fifty gallons.
But when a cow drinks water (typically twenty–five to fifty gallons per day), most of that fluid bypasses the rumen and flows directly into the second chamber, the reticulum, where it is mixed with digestive enzymes and more fermentation bacteria. Meanwhile, peristaltic action (muscular movement of the stomach chamber) rolls the fodder in chamber one into little balls, and the partially fermented balls are then passed into the second chamber, where they are infused with the enzyme–saturated liquid.
Later, when the cow has leisure to ruminate, it will regurgitate those soggy balls of fiber from the second stomach chamber and chew them more finely before swallowing again. This is what Scripture speaks of when it designates the cow as one of those animals that chews the cud (cf. Leviticus 11:3). A typical cow spends about six hours per day eating and about eight hours per day chewing its cud.
The cud, after more chewing, is swallowed again, and this time, in a near–liquid state, it passes directly into the second chamber. The construction of the second chamber enables the chewed cud to be filtered. Smaller particles are permitted to pass into a third chamber. The larger particles that remain in the second chamber are regurgitated again for more chewing.
The third chamber is called the omasum. There, excess liquid is reabsorbed into the cow’s system and the thoroughly chewed cud is compacted while its chemical composition is broken down even more by the digestive process.
The thoroughly refined food then passes from the third chamber into a fourth, called the abomasum. This chamber works much like the stomachs of other mammals. It secretes strong acid and digestive enzymes, completing the digestive process. From there, nutrients pass into the cow’s blood system, sustaining the cow and providing vital nutrients for milk production.
This remarkable design enables the cow to enjoy a nutritious meal from a simple manger of hay, something that is impossible for mammals not equipped with multichambered stomachs capable of digesting cellulose.
It is a wonderfully efficient design, converting cellulose, which we cannot digest, into edibles—milk, cream, butter, cheese, and a long list of dairy products. The average milk cow produces more than five thousand quarts of milk each year. One cow can therefore supply milk for nearly sixty people. Cows are prodigious eaters, and one cow will also produce up to ten tons of manure in a year, returning vital nutrients to the pasture. In some cultures, the manure is even used as an efficient fuel for cooking food.
Cattle have exceptionally keen hearing and olfactory senses. A cow can smell scent up to five miles. Their cloven hoofs enable them to gallop long distances, even in marshy terrain. They are suited to almost every environment and thrive as well in the cold of Canada as they do in the heat of Florida.
And they are as useful as they are durable. Almost every part of the cow can be used for food, including the cow’s bones and hoofs, which can be boiled to extract collagen for making gelatin. The hide makes durable leather.
The cow seems to have been especially designed to serve the needs of humanity. Fully domesticated and easily bred, they can live almost anywhere people can live. They can graze on a wide variety of wild plant life and therefore are relatively inexpensive to feed and maintain. They are God’s gracious gift to humanity.