Monday, May 20, 2024

General Features of Ruminant Animals

Animal rearing is an age long activity that man carries out basically for food and the production of raw materials for agro-industries. Meat or flesh, milk and eggs are primarily obtained directly from farm animals for consumption by man.

Wool, fur, hides and skin are other products from farm animals for industrial use as raw materials. Animals are categorized into ruminants and non-ruminants based on some anatomical and physiological differences.

Apart from being a source of meat as other animals, ruminant animals are the main sources of raw materials such as wool, fur, hides and skin, milk and many others for the production of clothing materials, leather materials (such as foot wears like shoes, belt, shawl), milk products like yoghurt, butter, cheese, and many other products.

Ruminant animals, especially bull or camel are also used as draught animals for transportation and traction.

Definition of Ruminant Animals

Ruminant animals are mammals that belong to the order Artiodactyla. They are animals with a complex stomach unlike the non-ruminants that have simple stomach.

They eat and digest forages or plant based feed by swallowing it first and allowing it to get moistened in the rumen which is the first compartment of the complex stomach.

The swallowed food is later regurgitated by the animal and re-chewed to break down the plant materials for digestion. This process is called rumination or chewing the cud.

The cud is a semi-solid and semi-degraded digesta usually in a bolus form which is regurgitated from the reticulorumen of the animal. Examples of ruminant animals are cattle, sheep, goats, camel, water buffalo, giraffes, antelopes to mention but a few.

However, we shall limit our discussion in this study to cattle, sheep and goats that are commonly found in our environment.

The diagrams below show the labelled parts of cattle and goat

Ruminant Animals
Figure: Labelled Diagram of a Cow

The Differences between Ruminant and Non-ruminant Animals

As mentioned above, the main difference between ruminant animals and non-ruminants is the anatomy of their stomach. Contrary to the belief of many, ruminants have only one stomach and not four.

Figure: The Four Compartments of Ruminant Stomach
Figure: The Four Compartments of Ruminant Stomach

However, the stomach is divided into four compartments or chambers unlike the simple stomach of the non-ruminants that has no division. The compartments are rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum.

The last of the compartments is the true stomach in ruminants while the rumen and reticulum perform the function of moistening the swallowed forage. In the omasum, water and inorganic materials are absorbed before the digestais passed into the true stomach.

Another major physical difference is the possession of spilt hooves by ruminant animals.

Read Also : The Life-Span of Farm Animals

Classes of Ruminant Animals

Ruminant animals are categorized into two main classes based on their body size namely, the large ruminant animals and small ruminant animals. Examples of large ruminants are cattle, water buffalo, giraffe, camel etc while small ruminants are sheep, goat, antelope etc.

Ruminants have an advantage of the ability to eat and utilise low quality fibrous food that cannot be eaten by human or non-ruminants.

Economic Importance of Keeping Ruminant Animals

Ruminant animals and their products as mentioned in the introduction have tremendous nutritional and economic values to man as stated below:

Meat and milk of cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminants are good sources of animal protein to man which are of better quality than plant protein.

They serve as sources of raw materials used in industries e.g. leather goods respectively. Goat hair is also used for making carpets, bag and ropes. Wool is a raw material for the production of clothings for human wear.

They serve as means of foreign exchange earnings. For instance, some countries in Europe such as Denmark and Botswana in Southern region of Africa export beef to earn foreign exchange. Others export dairy products from milk to earn foreign exchange.

They serve as source of income to subsistence farmers. In Nigeria, cattle, sheep and goats are kept at subsistence level by farmers.

These animals are able to survive on fallow lands and others that are not good for arable crop farming thereby maximizing the use of the available land resource.

They are also used as gifts or bride price which serve as family wealth.

They are sources of gainful employment.

The manure/dung from these animals can be used as a source of organic fertilizer.

Generally, under the organized production system, ruminant animals are slaughtered during festive seasons all over the world.

Blood and bones obtained from slaughtering of these animals are often recycled and processed into blood meal, bone meal which are used as components of animal feed.

Cattle, and some other ruminants can also be used as “beast of burden”

In summary,the general features of ruminant animals have been looked into in this unit. The ruminant and non-ruminant animals were differentiated using the features highlighted and also categorized into large and small ruminants. The nutritional and economic values of keeping ruminants were also discussed.

Ruminant animals are those that feed on plant based feed by swallowing it and later regurgitating the forage for proper mastication or chewing to reduce the semi-solid digesta to particle size for digestion.

Ruminant animals differ from non-ruminants because they possess only one stomach with four compartments which are the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. The fourth compartment called abomasum is the true stomach.

Ruminants also differ from non-ruminants because they have spilt hooved toes. Ruminants are divided into large and small based on their body size.

Ruminants have tremendous nutritional and economic values. They serve as source of foreign exchange earnings and also raw materials for agro allied-industries.

Read Also : Chemical Wastes Complete Management Guide


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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