Keep Your Nose Clean

When I wrote the blog post about how our cattle use their noses as a grass guidance system, there was one detail I overlooked: cow nose maintenance. Even if you’ve got a precision instrument, there’s always some maintenance required.

Here are a series of pictures that show the nose maintenance procedure. These three stooges have just stopped over at the salt lick to recharge their electrolytes, and now they’re about to go back to grazing. Before they hit the grass again, here’s what they do:

Moe Licks
Larry Licks
Larry and Curly take a lick

If you have a pet dog, you’ve probably noticed that it will lick its nose often throughout the day. Cattle have noses every bit as sensitive (if not more sensitive) as dogs, and they also need to keep their noses moist. Wet scent glands are more receptive to odors than dry skin. So they use their tongues to clear out their nostrils and to wipe off the outer nose. This refreshes their olfaction system for finding grass, scenting predators, and when the time is right, determining who in the herd is in heat. The heat detection function is worth its own write-up because the cattle make a curious face when they’re smelling for estrus, so I’ll wait until I get some good pictures of that and cover it some day as a separate topic.

For all the snuffling cattle do while grazing in tall grass, I wonder how much grass seed and dandelion fluff must end up in their noses. It makes sense that they need to take a moment and unclog the pipes before grazing along again.

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