What's a magnet doing in a pile of fertilizer?
December 12, 2010 6:06 PM   Subscribe

What was that magnet doing in a pile of manure?

When I was a kid, my grandfather gave me a permanent magnet he found in a pile of manure he bought to use as fertilizer. It was maybe 5 centimeters long, 2 centimeters wide, and shaped like a pill, a cylinder with rounded ends. It was very shiny, like it had been nickel-plated. And the assumption is that it was in that pile because it had travelled through an animal.

What I want to know is why anyone would feed a magnet to a cow (or horse) in the first place.
posted by Chocolate Pickle to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: cows are "fed" magnets so that the assorted farm debris gets stuck to the magnet instead of passing through the entire cow.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 6:08 PM on December 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Cow Magnets
posted by HopperFan at 6:08 PM on December 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It is called a cow magnet and it is used to attract pieces of metal that are sometimes in the cows feed. Check out this link Hardware Disease on wikipedia.

"Sharp metallic objects are ingested and settle in the reticulum, and can irritate or even perforate its lining. The object perforates the reticulum and reaches the pericardium where it causes a severe inflammation."

"Hardware disease can be reduced by use of cow magnets to collect ingested objects and prevent their migration through the reticulum. After the cow is slaughtered, the magnet is removed."
posted by MiggySawdust at 6:12 PM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: They're also called "Cow Pills".
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:17 PM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: see in various James Herriott books for the phrase "so-and-so's cow has got a wire..."
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:21 PM on December 12, 2010

Response by poster: So presumably, once in a while, the cow pill actually completes the journey, and that's what my grampa found. Thanks, all!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:28 PM on December 12, 2010

We call these "rumen magnets" where I work...at a manufacturer of said magnets!
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:12 AM on December 13, 2010

Those magnets are awesome - pretty strong for their size.

I recommend using one to make a simple electric motor, just for the fun of it.
posted by owls at 8:44 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

At Scout camp in the 1980s, farm boys from Wisconsin used the soft rubber pink-and-blue cases for these magnets as the projectiles in their homemade blow guns (made from lengths of gray plastic electrical conduit, I think). They were awesome and terrifying.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:52 AM on December 13, 2010

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