Instead of a herd, they’re a fleet…

Many times over the years, I’ve escorted new visitors to Las Cruces on a tour of the campus of New Mexico State University to show off our great land grant institution. The campus gets new improvements constantly, and there’s always something interesting to see that I haven’t noticed before.

One stop I always try to make is to look at the animals on campus that are part of the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. As I understand it from the former acting Dean of the college and a good friend, NMSU is one of only two land grant colleges which still has live animals for research purposes on campus.

One group of animals I always try to spot on my tours are the cannulated cows. Cannulated cows, for the uninitiated, are bovines with surgically implanted portholes on their sides that can be used for research into diets of the animals. In addition to the ability to peer into their stomachs, you can also reach inside them to retrieve specimens of what they’re munching on. I think I’ll pass on that opportunity.

Contented cannulated cows on campus of New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University has had a herd — or fleet — of these porthole cows for many years. Usually they’re kept in pens that don’t provide public glimpses of the critters but occasionally they are out wandering around some of the lush pastures on the western edge of the campus.

There is some controversy from animal rights groups about this technique, but as far as I could tell, these animals are treated well and don’t seem to notice that they have these odd devices attached to them. When I took this photo, the cows seemed to want to come up an introduce themselves to me, hoping that I might have a nice bunch of grass or hay to offer.

A quick search on the internet shows the procedure to create cannulated cows has been around since the early 1920s, mostly on campuses of agricultural schools where research is conducted to determine best diets for both dairy and beef cattle.

So when you bite into that next flavorful cut of beef or sip some wholesome milk, you can thank one of these bovines for giving up some of its dignity for your enhanced eating or drinking experience.

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