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Farm Animal Behavior

A second year student at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, shares her knowledge of farm animals with us.

The following is written by Sarah Goss, DVM Candidate class of 2023


Farm animals each have their own unique behaviors. Just like a dog doesn’t act like a cat, a cow doesn’t act like a pig. Let’s explore some of the various behaviors that different farm animals exhibit and try to explain why they do them.

Chewing Cows: If you’ve ever stopped to look at a cow, you may have noticed she does a lot of chewing. Cattle can spend more than 8 hours of their day chewing their cud. What’s cud, you may ask? Cud is partially chewed food.

Why? You may have heard that cows have more than one stomach. What they actually have is a stomach with 4 different compartments. The first compartment is called the rumen. When a cow swallows some yummy food, it goes into the rumen where it mixes with stomach acid.

It is softened and starts to be broken down, and then the cow regurgitates it (spits it back up) so she can chew it again! This helps the digestion process. Once the food is soft and well chewed, it will pass to a different compartment to be digested.

Dirty Pigs: Pigs get a bad reputation for being really dirty. Anyone who has been around pigs knows they love to play in mud! Why are they always trying to stay dirty?

Why? Many animals can’t sweat as well as humans. They have to find different ways to cool off during hot days. Pigs have found a clever way to beat the heat. By rolling around in cool mud, pigs can lower their body temperature. The mud also helps keep off bugs and protect from the sun. And, it’s a lot of fun!

Screaming Chickens: Cock-a-doodle doo! If you live near a rooster, you know it when they wake up early and scream to the world. What are they yelling about?

Chicken with it's mouth open screaming

Why? Rooster is the term for male chicken. Hen is the term for a female chicken. Roosters are the ones doing the cock-a-doodle-doo-ing. So what’s all the fuss about? Are they just alarm clocks for farmers? Actually, roosters usually announce their presence with a loud cry to keep other roosters away. They are defining their territory. So why do they do it in the morning? Roosters will actually crow throughout the day, but sunlight likely stimulates them to start this.

Climbing Goats: Goats are often seen at petting zoos and on small farms. People love pet goats because they are friendly and funny! You can often spot goats in very strange places. Like where? Often you can spot goats climbing trees!

Why? Goats are naturally very curious animals. They like to explore everything! This probably contributes to why they end up in very strange places, like on top of trees! Goats are also herbivores meaning they eat plants. Climbing trees to chew on their leaves as well as their nuts or berries can be an important part of a goat’s natural diet. Goats have evolved to be very athletic and powerful climbers.


We hope you enjoyed this guest blog post. We look forward to hearing from more NCS CVM students as time permits!


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