A Window into Healthy Cows

Cannulated cows, sometimes called rumen Fistulated cows have been used for research since the 1830s. Surgically fitted with a cannula (durable thick plastic “window” with a lid), these Fistulated cows offer insight into health and digestion of ruminants. The cannula allows the surgical opening to heal around it, forming a barrier to keep the outside world separate from the rumen, unless needed for medical or educational purposes. This is common practice at veterinary schools and some larger farm operations.

The benefit of having a Fistulated cow is tremendous. A procedure called rumen transfaunation can be performed to help cows suffering from indigestion or other digestive ailments. Fistulated cows are watched closely for optimal health. They have a wonderful microbiome of healthy bacteria in their rumen that can be transferred into sick cows. These sick cows’ bodies are then able to utilize the healthy bacteria to improve their own health. Transfaunation can even work with sheep and goats because they have similar digestive systems to cows.

Contrary to popular belief, Fistulated cows are not in any pain. They are able to live full, comfortable, and long lives. In fact, some are spoiled more than regular cows because of wanting to keep their rumen microbiome healthy and active.

For more information on the transfaunation process, visit our previous blog post at


O’Brien, Anna. “Holey Cow: The Wonderful World of a Fistulated Cow.” Modern Farmer

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