A bovine is a cow, steer, bull or other member of the cattle family. Bovine can also be used as an adjective to describe something related to cows and cattle, such as "bovine disease." Cattle are kept domestically as pets, work animals and for both dairy and meat production. Their manure is also used as fertilizer to grow crops and other plants.
Planet Earth is home to over a billion bovines. A female bovine mother is called a cow, while a female who has never given birth is a heifer. A male is called either a steer if he is castrated or a bull if he is not. Bovines trained to be draft animals, work on farms and pull carts and other vehicles are called oxen. Baby bovines are calves. Meat from adult cattle is called beef while meat from calves is called veal.
Bovine are large animals with cloven hooves -- meaning they're divided into two parts -- and four stomach chambers to help them digest food. Both male and female bovines can have horns, although they're more common in dairy breeds than in beef cattle. Some ranchers or dairy farmers may get their cattle's horns removed, cut or blunted for safety reasons. Bovines are red-green colorblind, so contrary to popular belief, it's not the red cape that angers bulls in a bullfighting arena; it's the cape's fast movements.
The average bovine lives 18 to 22 years, but it's not uncommon for them to log 25 years or more. Adult males of breeds such as Jersey, Angus and Hereford cattle weigh 1,200 to 1,800 pounds while females weigh 1,100 to 1,500 pounds. Larger cattle breeds like Holstein and Brangus average 2,000 pounds for both sexes and can reach a whopping 2,800 pounds for males.
Keeping your bovine happy and healthy requires treating her just as you would any other family pet. Cattle are herbivores, eating only vegetation such as grass and hay. They are also ruminants, which means they chew their cud. If you put your cattle out to pasture, be sure to remove any poisonous plants first. Otherwise you can purchase hay to feed them. Alfalfa hay is only recommended for younger animals, since it contains a lot of calcium and protein. Large bales are more cost-effective when purchased in bulk, but small bales are available if you only have one or two animals. A hay feeder reduces waste and a cover protects the feed from rain.
A bovine's daily diet requires 2 to 4 pounds of grass or hay for every 100 pounds of body weight, depending on the temperature -- a 1,200-pound cow will eat approximately 24 pounds a day in summer and up to 48 pounds in winter.
Good nutrition, including zinc and biotin, helps keep hooves healthy, but some management is required. Dairy cows should have their hooves checked and trimmed, if required, every 6 months. If the hoof shows even wear on all sides, trimming is not necessary.
A multitude of diseases affect cattle, including foot and mouth disease, botulism, rabies, streptococcosis, bovine tuberculosis, Lyme disease and more. Common parasites include hookworms, liver fluke, ringworm and ticks. Vaccinations and treatments are available for many bovine maladies.
Bovine can also get hoof problems, which are especially prevalent among dairy cattle. Direct injuries include abscesses, ulcers, punctures and lacerations. Laminitis, foot rot and hairy heel warts all can lead to lame cattle. Laminitis, an inflammation of hoof tissue, also has side effects including hemorrhaging, bone separation and toe overgrowth.
All bovine diseases and health issues should be diagnosed and treated with the help of a veterinarian who specializes in livestock.