On lazy Sunday afternoons, I sometimes remind myself of my cattle; leisurely grazing and napping my way through the day. I’ve learned to never weigh myself on a Monday morning. I don’t come close to eating as much as my cows; but it seems like I’ve always got a bag or plate of something nearby. On Sundays when Diane makes her “gravy” (a thick, savory tomato-based sauce) and homemade meatballs (the large Italian ones), I appoint myself official taste-tester—then nap through a food coma.
Beef cows, the kind we raise here at the Cross-Dubya ranch, eat an average of two percent of their body weight each day. For a twelve-hundred pound cow, this equates to twenty-four pounds of dry matter per day. I’m a big fella, but I would be lucky to eat twenty-four pounds of food in a month! Needing that much nutrition per day, it becomes easy to understand why when you drive by farms and ranches it seems the cattle are always eating.
Many believe cows have four stomachs, which is why they eat so much. In reality, they only have one, but it’s a big sucker, with four different chambers/compartments. As herbivores (grass eaters), cows have a more complex digestive system than us humans. God designed each compartment in a cow’s stomach to perform a specific task in their digestive process. The four parts of their stomach are:
- Rumen–This is where the cow begins breaking down the complex plant products it ingests. Good rumen health (the right pH balance and chemical makeup) is critical.
- Reticulum–Here the partially digested food mixes with a cow’s saliva to produce cud. The cow burps up its cud (imagine a two-pound ball of bubble gum), several times throughout the day, and chews on it to help break the food down more. If you’ve ever watched a cow, and it appears it’s chewing a mouthful of bubble gum, they’re chewing their cud. Sometimes I chuckle as I walk around my pastures listening to the cows burp in stereo. What’s even more comical is when “Ms. Lynn” (a 1,400 lb. cow) snores when she’s napping. Yes Virginia, cow’s snore. Some, quite loudly (I have video).
- Omasum–Here, all the water is absorbed out of the food as further processing occurs.
- Abomasum–In this last chamber, the food is finally digested; much the way we humans digest food.
All that digesting sure makes me glad I’m God’s greatest creation; His masterpiece in the making.
Watching my little heifer yearling “Giblets” (pictured above) devour her share of a fresh bale of Bermuda grass hay caused me to think. I thought about how she’s been eating grain and grass for much of the day. Yet, when I put out a new bale of stale, dried up grass, she gets after it like I would a bacon-wrapped filet mignon. The hay is not as nutritious as the grain I feed them each morning, or the grass growing in my pastures. Still, it’s something different and my cows view it as a treat. In the summer, hay is a welcome change to their everyday routine.
It always amazes me how quickly six calves can consume a sixty-five pound bale of hay. In case you’re wondering, it takes six five hundred pound calves less than twenty minutes to have nothing but a thin layer of hay strewn about the ground. Cows, it seems, always have something somewhere in their stomach. Perhaps that’s why they graze all day, and when the grass is not that plentiful, or appealing, they’re satisfied with good hay.
Bottom line is that unless they’re asleep, they’re chewing on something. I thought about how we Christians might consider that same practice. Not grazing like I do on Sunday’s, but ingesting God’s word and then digesting His word, goodness, and grace throughout our day. Some ways I do that is to:
- start my day with prayer and praise,
- spend some quiet and quality time one-on-one with God,
- listen to worship music in the background, and
- take purposeful breaks to recognize His presence through prayer and praise.
When I keep God at the forefront of my thoughts throughout the day, things go smoother. Not that my days don’t have struggles, trials, and temptations, but when my mind is on God, everything becomes a little easier to handle. As I chew on what I studied or listen to the words of a song, I consider how I can apply Christ’s teachings in my life.
I’m careful about what I feed my cows. It’s important to balance their food intake with the right kinds and amounts of minerals and medicines, grains, and dry matter. While they “free graze” on pasture grasses, I’m always careful to watch them for signs of bloat or other maladies that can befall cattle. When everything is taken in the right proportion, cattle grow healthy and strong. My calves and yearlings will gain an average of two-and-a-half pounds per day as they grow to maturity.
In the same way, Christians must be watchful of what we ingest as well. We must watch for signs of distress or spiritual needs and adjust our diets to achieve maximum spiritual growth. Many verses from God’s word came to mind as I was writing this, but the one I am led to think most appropriate is Colossians 3:16 (NKJV). In it, Paul wrote “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
“Dwell in you richly…”; as I consider this, I realize my spiritual digestive process is not all that different from my cattle’s. I take it in, chew on it a while, then I think about it later and chew on it more. I absorb as much of it as I can in the process and I discard the rest. Since I don’t absorb all that God is teaching me the first time, I find I must continually feed my soul the right things, so it supports my spiritual growth needs.My cattle taught me to ruminate on God’s word throughout the day, digesting it slowly so more is absorbed into my spiritual life. Click To Tweet
I pray you’ll ask God to direct you to all you need to maximize your spiritual growth. Once identified, I pray He sends you all the nutritionally balanced resources you need to grow farther and faster in your journey of faith than ever before.