Placentophagia, the plot of eating placenta, is it was observed in many placental pets including cows. There is no single, critical reason known for why cows eat their placenta yet in searching for the answer we came throughout four key theories: bonding, hunger, predator avoidance, and instinct. After acquisition a closer look in ~ the feasible reasons why cows eat your placenta us contacted a number of producers, no only livestock but likewise swine, horse, and sheep producer to comment on what is done with the placenta top top the farm and if placentophagia has ever before caused any type of problems.

You are watching: Why do cows eat their placenta

The idea that a cow eats her placenta together a means of bonding through her calf can probably it is in rejected. The placenta is exit a couple of minutes to a few hours ~ the calf is born and it is not generally in call with the calf. The idea of bonding might have developed from confusing amniotic fluid which the child calf is spanned in with the placenta. “Most cows will pay attention to the calf if eating their placenta”, says Murray Warnke, a beef livestock producer from Wetaskiwin, AB. “But some come to be focused top top the placenta and ignore the calf.” In this cases, removing the placenta causes the cow to return her fist to her calf. This, in conjunction through the reality that the placenta is usually not in call with the calf, opposes the idea the bonding as a factor for cows come eat your placenta.

The second theory, hunger, is separated into two categories: basic and particular hunger. Basic hunger shows that the cow is simply plain hungry ~ calving. The truth that the placenta is edible, and also generally in nearby proximity to the calf, makes it a practically meal.

Specific hunger refers to a craving. This theory suggests that there might be something in the placenta, for instance nutrients or hormones, the the cow craves post-partum. Once asked if the had ever before encountered a trouble as a result of a cow eating she placenta, Alberta dairy product farmer, Alex Beattie, responded that he had actually never encountered any type of problems yet “some people think that eat the placenta relaxes the cow and is an excellent for the cow”. If us take into factor to consider the belief that placentophagia in humans helps protect against post-partum depression, placentophagia in cows might be advantageous to their psychological health and certain hunger may aid them to obtain this benefit.

The 3rd and most popular theory because that why cows eat your placenta is predator avoidance. Vet Dr. Jennifer Dodd admits that it is no a definite reason but describes it as “a defensive mechanism to ensure that there is no proof of the birthing in order come protect versus predators.”

The idea is that the cow eats her placenta so that the odor does not attract predators in the direction of her and her an extremely vulnerable calf.

The final theory worrying why cows eat their placenta, instinct, is largely self-explanatory. They just do it, that instinctive. Remember, cows were not always domesticated and it is a reality that basically all placental mammals eat your placenta with the exemption of camels, Cetaceans (an stimulate of aquatic mammals including whales and dolphins), and Pinnipeds (an order of semi-aquatic mammals consisting of seals and also walruses). Cows eating your placenta are not unique amongst placental mammals.


We synchronized with 16 livestock producers to comment on reasons for leaving or remove the placenta and also potential difficulties resulting from allowing placentophagia. Contrasted with 17% of cattle producers who claimed they remove the placenta, 43% of various other livestock producers (swine, horses, and also sheep) said they eliminate the placenta; both for comparable reasons. Overall, 11 of the producers shown that they leave the placenta come be consumed for reasons consisting of nutritional value, due to the fact that it is natural for the animal, and/or due to the fact that it is impractical to remove. The five producers who perform remove the placenta claimed that they are doing so one of two people to avoid attracting predators, protect against the pet from choking, and/or promote cleanliness and sanitation in the birthing area. Over 80% that the producers indicated that they have actually never encountered a problem as a straight result of an pet consuming she placenta (note that few of these animals were never exposed to a placenta). However, the remainder shown encountering difficulties involving pets choking. In two of this cases, nothing came of the choking, it either righted itself or the producer was there to assist the animal; in the third case, two animals actually choked come death.

Weighing the costs and benefits of enabling a cow to eat she placenta comes under to the producer’s separation, personal, instance situation and also experiences. In free-range operations for example it might not be valuable to it is in out security each and every calving in stimulate to eliminate the placenta. Dr. Dodd claims that “there might be some minor nutritional value consisting of proteins in the placenta however the cow will make it through well without eating it.” So because that those who are choosing to- and able to- consistently remove the placenta, there are no detrimental effects connected with disallowing placentophagia.

See more: What Do Sardines Eat In The Ocean, A Lesson In Food Chains

So, why do cows eat their placenta? By eliminating bonding together a feasible reason we have narrowed it under to three key theories; hunger, predator avoidance, and also instinct. Each has its very own appeal and all seem equally probable not just as a reason for cows but likewise for why other mammals eat their placenta. Suffice it come say that some mix of hunger, predator avoidance, and also instinct cd driver cows to partake that the afterbirth snack.