Farmer Boy, Chapter 9

Taxonomy is the branch of science concerned with classifying living things. You have already learned that trees have a common name (like maple) and a scientific name (Aceraceae), but there are other layers of classification as well.

Watch this video to learn more about Taxonomy: Classification of Living Things

The taxonomy of a cow is:
Kingdom – Animal
Phylum – Chordata (having backbones)
Class – Mammal (live birth, warm blooded, fur, milk for young)
Order – Artiodactyla (even-toed, hoofed animals)
Sub-Order – Ruminant (cud chewing)
Family – Bovidae (cloven-hoofed)
Genus – Bos (Cattle)
Species – B. taurus (domestic cattle)

Almanzo is helping to raise calves to be draft oxen. Cattle go by many names depending on the gender and age:
Calf – young cattle
Heifer – female cattle until they give birth
Cow – female cattle after giving birth
Bulls – male cattle of any age
Steer – castrated male cattle raised for beef
Oxen – castrated male cattle raised as draft animals

Cattle have been domesticated throughout history. Cattle were not native to the United States, but were in fact brought here from Europe by Christopher Columbus. By colonial times, draft oxen were valued quite highly in America. Cattle live on farms and/or ranches.

Cattle are ruminants, meaning they chew their cud. They have a huge four-chambered stomach. When they eat, the food passes down the esophagus to the rumen where it is broken down and formed into small balls of cud. As it desires, the cattle will return the cud back to its mouth, where it will be chewed up some more to further break up the fibers. It will then reswallow the food, where it will go through the rumen, on to the reticulum, then to the omasum, and finally to the abomasums, the true stomach. In the abomasums, enzymes are secreted and normal digestion takes place.

God designed the teeth of cattle in a certain way. Because they are grazing herbivores, they have no need for sharp upper canines like a carnivore has. Instead, they have teeth designed for grinding. Their bottom front incisors and canines bite against a horny pad in the upper jaw. The back molars are broad and high crowned, with enamel ridges for grinding. Cattle eat grass and hay.

Most cattle have horns, which they can use to protect themselves, but there are some hornless varieties.

Many important products come from cattle. We get milk from cows, and meat from all varieties of cattle. Meat from a young male is called veal, while all other meat is called beef. The carcasses of cattle are used for leather, glue, gelatin, and fertilizer.

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