By: Zia Mahmood Minhas

U.S. dairy farms in crisis as milk prices turn sour  The Cattle 

 –Significance of Cattle Farming 

 –Qur’an Describes Digestive System and Milk Production

download  Digestive System of Ruminants 

 –How Do Female Mammals Produce Milk?

The Cattle

The bovines or bovids are mammals with cloven hooves (ungulates) with one of the sexes having true horns.

The cattle are farm animals reared for meat and milk and normally speaking include the bulls, cows and water buffaloes. They belong to the group of animals called ruminants. Rumination is the process where food is stored in the stomach and is regurgitated for re-chewing and digestion. The word ruminant comes from Latin and means ‘to chew over again’.

These animals consume large quantity of food since the forage is low in nutrition. The grazing and feeding causes abrasion and decay in teeth. Allah has compensated the cattle in an interesting way. Their teeth continue growing their whole life, which is not the way for other mammals.

Significance of Cattle Farming

Allah has highlighted the significance of the cattle for human race in the following verses:


أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّا خَلَقْنَا لَهُم مِّمَّا عَمِلَتْ أَيْدِينَا أَنْعَامًا فَهُمْ لَهَا مَالِكُونَ ﴿٧١﴾ وَذَلَّلْنَاهَا لَهُمْ فَمِنْهَا رَكُوبُهُمْ وَمِنْهَا يَأْكُلُونَ ﴿٧٢﴾ وَلَهُمْ فِيهَا مَنَافِعُ وَمَشَارِبُ ۖ فَلَا يَشْكُرُونَ ٧٣  

Have they not observed that We Created for them from Our handiwork, cattle which they come to possess? That We tamed them for their benefit, that upon them they ride and from them they eat? That they have other uses for them, and draughts to drink? Will they not render thanks?

(Soorah Ya-Sin 36: 71- 73)

الْأَنْعَامَ خَلَقَهَا ۗ لَكُمْ فِيهَا دِفْءٌ وَمَنَافِعُ وَمِنْهَا تَأْكُلُونَ ﴿٥﴾ وَلَكُمْ فِيهَا جَمَالٌ حِينَ تُرِيحُونَ وَحِينَ تَسْرَحُونَ ﴿٦﴾ وَتَحْمِلُ أَثْقَالَكُمْ إِلَىٰ بَلَدٍ لَّمْ تَكُونُوا بَالِغِيهِ إِلَّا بِشِقِّ الْأَنفُسِ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ لَرَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ  ٧    

And cattle He created, from which you derive warmth and other uses, and from which you eat. And there is beauty in them for you, when you rest them or you send them out to pasture. They carry your loads to a land you would have reached except after much hardship. Your Lord is surely All-Gracious, Compassionate to each.

(Soorah An-Nahl 16: 5-7)  


وَاللَّـهُ جَعَلَ لَكُم مِّن بُيُوتِكُمْ سَكَنًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُم مِّن جُلُودِ الْأَنْعَامِ بُيُوتًا تَسْتَخِفُّونَهَا يَوْمَ ظَعْنِكُمْ وَيَوْمَ إِقَامَتِكُمْ ۙ

    وَمِنْ أَصْوَافِهَا وَأَوْبَارِهَا وَأَشْعَارِهَا أَثَاثًا وَمَتَاعًا إِلَىٰ حِينٍ  

It is Allah Who made your homes to be places of rest, Who made for you cattle- skin tents you find light to carry when you travel and where you put up; and from the wool, furs, and hair furnishings and enjoyment, for a while.

(Soorah An-Nahl 16:80)

Allah has referred to creation of cattle and taming them for humans as his special favor. They cater for human needs of food, nutrition, transportation and as draught animals.

In the verses from Soorah An-Nahl Allah has stressed the economic and social importance of cattle and their performing tough works for human beings. The use of animal hides, hair and other bye products has also been highlighted.

Beef Industry

Beef industry is one of the major food industries and apart from muscle of cattle, almost all body organs are cooked for food or put to other uses. Beef is the third most consumed meat after poultry and pork. America and Europe are major consumers of beef. Average consumption in kilograms per person is highest in Argentina at 64.6, followed by USA 40.2 and Europe 16.9. Top 6 beef producing countries are enlisted below.


Country Production(1000 MT CWE)
Unites States 11789
Brazil 9300
EU-27 7920
China 5550
Argentina 2800
India 2760


While beef is consumed all over the world, cow slaughter is banned in most of the provinces of India since Hindu religion considers cow as sacred animal. The exports from India are mostly buffalo meat, which is treated as less sacred and its slaughter tolerated.

Beef is excellent source of complete protein, minerals such as zinc, selenium, phosphorus, iron and vitamins. Beef is the significant source of carnitine and creatine which have significant role in body metabolism.

Dairy Farming

-Dairy farming has been part of agrarian societies for thousands of years.

-Milking machines were introduces in 20th century. Prior to that hand milking was done which is still practiced in developing communities.

-In some countries milk is consumed locally while Holland and new Zealand are exporters of processed products, mostly as milk powder.

-Milk production figures of top seven countries are as under:


Countries Production 106/kg yearly
India 110040
United states 85859
China 40553
Pakistan 34362
Russia 32562
Germany 28691
Brazil 27716
World 696554

(Source FAO)

Milk is consumed as pure milk as well as various milk products. Milk products are high energy yielding products as well as delicious and nourishing. Some of these are enlisted below:


 1.  Milk cream
 2.  Curd
 3.  Paneer
 4.  Powdered milk
 5.  Butter
 6.  Whey products
 7.  Condensed milk
 8.  Khoa(Subcontinent product)
 9.   Butter milk
 10. Ghee( Butter Oil )
 11. Cheese
12. yogurt
13. Ice cream

Nutritional Value of Milk

Milk is a miraculous drink bestowed by Allah upon mankind. It is pleasant to drink for persons of all ages and genders. It has great nutritional value and has all ingredients essential for human health. It contains components of energy, water, carbohydrates, fat, proteins, vitamins, minor biological proteins and enzymes. Major content of milk is water which is 80-90%. We will briefly discuss the various components of nutrients in the milk.

Energy: The energy is provided to the body by milk proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The cow milk provides 42-60 k Cal energy per 100 gram. The buffalo milk is richer in energy and value is 97 k Cal per 100 gram.

Carbohydrates: Milk has 4.9% carbohydrate in the form of lactose. Carbohydrates are primary source of energy for activity and are important in hormonal regulation in the body.

Fat: Cow milk has approximately 3.25 grams and buffalo milk 6.9 grams fat contents in 100 grams of milk. Fats are concentrated energy source for the body in low and prolonged work and exercise.

The fatty acids in milk fat include approximately 65% saturated, 25% monosaturated and 6% polyunsaturated. The poly unsaturated fatty acids in the milk fat are linoleic acid and linolenic acid. There are several types of isomer linoleic acid that have been shown to inhibit cancer. Another important content of milk is cholesterol which is vital to many body functions. An 8oz serving of 2% milk contains 8% of the daily reference intake (DRI) of cholesterol.

Proteins: Milk has approximately 3.3% proteins which have all of the essential amino acids. Proteins are the fundamental building blocks of muscle, skin, hair and cellular components. They play an important role in muscular functions and synthesis of enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Milk proteins are 2 main types i.e. casins and whey proteins, each having multiple protein categories.

Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins and minerals have vital role in body functions. Vitamins have role in metabolism, oxygen transport and as antioxidants. Minerals have role in body enzymes, bone formation water balance and oxygen transport. Milk has all vitamins and minerals essential for human body which are summarized as below

Vitamins Minerals Enzymes minor proteins
Vitamin A Calcium Lactoferrin
Thiamin(vitamin B1) Copper Lactoperoxidate
Riboflavin(vitamin B2) Iron Lipases
Niacin(vitamin B3) Magnesium beta galactosidase
Pantothenic acid(vitamin B5) Manganese
Pyridoxine(vitamin B6) Phosphorus
Cobalamin(vitamin B12) Potassium
Vitamin C,D, E, K Selenium
Folate Sodium


Qur’an Describes Digestive System and Milk Production

Both these important body system have been deliberated in Qur’an in following verse of Soorah An-Nahl.

وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الْأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً ۖنُّسْقِيكُم مِّمَّا فِي بُطُونِهِ مِن بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ لَّبَنًا خَالِصًا سَائِغًا لِّلشَّارِبِينَ ٦٦

In the cattle too there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink from their entrails, in between chyme

And the blood, pure milk tasty to those who drink.

(Soorah An-Nahl: 16-66)

Both these systems will be discussed in a bit detail in the coming pages.

Digestive System of Ruminants

The digestive system of cattle differs from other mammals. Their food intake contains high cellulose content. Normal digestive system of mammals cannot digest cellulose. The cattle have been provided with special digestive system by Allah which has  features that enable dissolution of the cellulose in the form of rumination and stomach structure.

The stomach of cattle has four chambers as against three for other mammals i.e.


1. Rumen


2. Reticulum


3. Omasum


4. Abomasum



While grazing or feeding the food is chewed hurriedly and stored in rumen and reticulum. Both these chambers are part of reticulorumen and food can move from one to other chamber.

In rumen and reticulum the food is mixed with saliva and formed into cud or bolus. The saliva is produced in large quantities i.e 100-150 liters. The cud is then regurgitated in leisure, re-chewed and further mixed with saliva and broken down in finer particles. Cellulose is primarily broken down during this process by microorganisms including bacteria, protozoa, fungi and yeast. They ferment the contents of semi digested chyme or digesta. The digesta now moves to next chamber, omasum where water and many of the inorganic materials are absorbed into blood stream.

The digesta or chyme has been termed as ‘farth’ in the quoted verse of Soorah An-Nahl.

From omasum, the digesta moves to the true stomach, the last chamber abomasum.Here final digestion is carried out by mixing in digestive juices, a process common to all mammals.

The digesta or ‘farth’ is then moved into small intestine where digestion and absorption of nutrients is completed.

The microbes who by now have consumed considerable part of nutrients are also digested and made part of nutrition to provide vital nitrogen for body metabolism.

How Do Female Mammals Produce Milk ?

Milk production or lactation involves production and secretion of milk by female mammals. The milk is produced by mammary glands and is secreted through udder and teats.

Milk production is basically for feeding and immune protection of young ones.Strangely the milk production in cattle and other farm animals exceeds the requirements of the baby mammals. This happens by the command of Allah who has made all animals subservient to human race for their survival and sustenance.

Mammary glands begin developing during embryonic stage and are located in the inguinal area of the cattle.Milk production is highly complicated process and starts with the digestion of food . The nutrition from the semi-digested food chyme or ‘farth’ according to Qur’anic terminology is absorbed in the digestive tracts and enters the body system. The absorbed nutrients contain proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and water. Blood transports these nutrients to milk producing cells in the mammary glands termed as ‘alveolus’. The milk secretory cells are surrounding a central storage area called lumen, which is connected to duct system.

The process of milk formation within the animal cells is highly complex. It involves myriad reactions involving enzymes. Some of them are enlisted below:

  • Progesterone
  • Oestrogen
  • Follicle stimulating hormone
  • Luteininzing hormone
  • Prolactin
  • Oxytocin
  • Lactogenic

Milk production passes through 3 phases before it is made available to the calves or humans.

Phase 1

During end months of pregnancy the teats produce thick yellowish liquid called colostrums. Colostrum is first milk a baby animal receives. It contains higher amounts of white blood cells and antibodies than normal milk. It induces resistance against pathogens by lining of digestive tract and preventing food allergies.

Phase 2:

When the breasts/teats get stimulated by suckling, the hormone prolactin is released in the blood which induces the cells to make milk.

Phase 3:

It begins when milk supply to breasts or udder is firmer, at this stage the milk can be produced in large quantities as per requirement of baby.

Phase 4:

Milk ejection takes place due to release of oxytocin hormone which induces to squeeze the milk out.

We now refer back to the milk production and its nutrition as envisaged in Qur’anic verses. Qur’an says that the milk is produced by interaction of digesta/chime or’farth’ and blood. It is tasty and nourishing.

We have seen how nutrient contents of digested food are transported by blood to the milk synthesis system of the cattle where milk is produced and delivered to baby or humans. This amazing scientific fact was revealed in Qur’an when nobody was aware of blood circulation system. The first scientist to describe the circulatory system was Muslim scientist Ibn-al-Nafis in 1242 AD. William Harvey described the circulatory system in a bit detail in 1628 AD. The role of blood in milk production was studied quiet recently.

 In mammals the newborn is dependent on mother’s milk and care for survival. As soon as the mother gives birth to a baby, milk is simultaneously produced by teats or breasts. The mother has absolutely no control over the production or composition of the milk. Amazingly the contents of the milk go on changing as the body requirements of the baby change. The new born initially needs light diet because of weak digestive system. Later on, the contents of the milk change to rich nutritional value to cater for the requirements of the growing body. When the baby grows up and can afford to live independently, the mother’s milk dries. The mother which was ready to sacrifice even its life for sake of the baby now discourages it and forces it to abandon her and live independently. Who controls all the body systems and emotional change to support the new born baby except Allah?

This is now clear that the striking scientific revelation regarding milk production by cattle is from Allah Almighty, the All-Wise and the All-Powerful.

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