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  • Cows are ruminants – mammals with specialised digestive systems that use fermentation processes to gain nutrients from plant material. Cattle, sheep, horses, deer, goats and camels are also ruminants. They are herbivorous or secondary producers in food chains and have adaptations to allow them to thrive on a plant-only diet.

    In this online activity, students will learn about the structural and functional aspects of a cow’s digestive system.

    The Ruminant digestion article and image map will give additional support for your students’ learning about a cow’s digestive system.

    The ruminant digestion labelling activity can also be used as a formative or summative tool for learning.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • identify structures in a cow’s digestive passage
    • understand the functions of parts of a cow’s digestive system.

    Label a cow’s digestive passage

    Ruminants like cows have an amazing digestive system. They are able to digest cellulose found in plant material – something humans cannot do.

    Drag and drop the text labels onto the boxes next to the diagram. Selecting or hovering over a box will highlight each area in the diagram.

    The paper-based activities in the downloadable Word document provide opportunities to deepen understanding about the ruminant digestive system with an additional mix and match activity.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content

    The articles Dairy farming key terms and Ruminant digestion will support learning in this area.

    Dairy farming and climate change – a context for learning offers further resources.

    Find out more information about soil, farming and science.

    The article Farm management practices describes ways to minimise nutrient leaching.

    Find out more about inhibiting nitrification.

    Find out more about pasture types.

    Explore how to measure pasture mass and pasture composition.

    Discover a range of resources in our Ruminants Pinterest collection.

    Useful links

    The DairyNZ FeedRight resources provide more in-depth information about feed, digestion and cow nutrition.

    Check out DairyNZ’s 3D interactive The amazing Cow.


    This resource has been produced with the support of DairyNZ.

    Rights: DairyNZ


    DairyNZ is the industry organisation that represents all New Zealand dairy farmers. DairyNZ supports farmers through investing in research, resource development, extension and advocacy to ensure sustainable dairy farming and food production.

      Published 29 March 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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