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Cows aren’t cars, but these cattle look like you could pump gas straight into their sides. A disturbing number of photos and videos online show cows, like these, with holes cut into their sides, fitted with a plastic ring to hold their flesh open.

They’re called fistulated cows, and removing a chunk of these animals’ abdomens to expose their stomachs has been a longtime practice of animal experimenters and is even done at veterinary schools. Although many claim that the surgery doesn’t hurt the cows or reduce their life expectancy, the mutilation still has a four- to six-week recovery period, in which there’s no doubt that the animals are uncomfortable.

Microbes in fistulated cows’ stomachs are studied and sometimes transferred to other animals. While some claim that this transfer can improve the health of cows, the procedure seems mostly to benefit the meat and dairy industries’.

A cannula acts as a porthole-like device that allows access to the rumen of a cow, to perform research and analysis of the digestive system and to allow veterinarians to transplant rumen contents from one cow to another.

The rumen chamber of the stomach is the most crucial to the digestive process, and the microbes break down foods that the cows are unable to.

If cows are having trouble with the digestive process, the stomach holes allow farmers to transplant the aforementioned bacteria and fungi in their stomachs. It’s difficult to figure out if the cow is getting proper nutrition and is healthy, just by looking at it.

That’s why scientists devised a technique for the farmers. A cow is surgically fitted with a ‘Cannula’ – a porthole-like opening that gives direct access to the rumen (the first chamber in the stomach) of a cow.

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The only reason that a cow would be selected to be cannulated is for research purposes on ruminant microbial activity and rumen digestibility of various forages and mixed rations.

It is the safest way to examine the digestive process of the cow. The holes also give the farmer a chance to evaluate digestion and give their cows optimal foods.

Using this way, they can find out about the healthier varieties of crops for the cattle needs thereby making the cattle raising more efficient. By using it, the products obtained from cattle will be improved as well.

Though veterinarians and bovine farmers point to the effectiveness of transfaunation for treating digestive disease, many animal rights groups argue that the practice is unnecessarily harmful to the quality of life of the cannulated cow.

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