Cowpats and Our Ecosystem

by Janette Perrett | ODPG Chair

It was the first day of July after an early morning frost, the sun was shining brightly and there wasn’t a breath of wind.

Sitting on the hilltop of an area just grazed by the cows, I took some time off to sit down and take in the spectacular view.

As peaceful as it felt, everything around me exuded life. Squawking rosellas flew between the Totara trees and there were several brightly coloured kingfishers swooping down to the ground to catch the unsuspecting worms. Fantails were flitting from branch to branch chasing sand flies with welcome swallows joining the feast.

Ahead of me, just over the rise was a flock of yellow hammers feeding on the ground joined by an even larger number of chaffinches.

All this activity had me spellbound! I then had an epiphany, was I watching the missing piece of the puzzle, the piece required to celebrate the bovine’s contribution to the environment? There I was, sitting alongside a multitude of fresh cowpats and surely witnessing one of nature’s amazing food pyramids in action?

The cows had eaten the herbs and grasses adding beneficial microbes from their stomachs then returning it to the land as food and habitat for birds and insects. I was witnessing Mother Nature taking full advantage of bovines playing their role in her ecosystem.

We all know insects provide food for birds and the insects themselves must have a food supply or they wouldn’t be there either. Even the pukekos had been scrapping away cow dung to get food. On closer inspection several cowpats had dung beetle diggings around them suggesting the habitat was definitely eco-friendly. They must have also found a food supply to sustain their existence while they bury the dung deep into the earth.

Here I was witnessing how cows without a doubt play a very important role in nature’s food pyramid. They complete the jigsaw perfectly. They allow life to flourish both above and below ground. Their breath and saliva helps to encourages the foliage to grow while their hooves stimulate the soil allowing oxygen to flow through.

I left that hill with immense satisfaction. We had done it right, left enough plant coverage to protect the soil and plenty of healthy cowpat fertilizer to support insect life and all the invisible microbes beneath the surface, an extremely vital part of the food pyramid.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Finsterbusch (Pexels)

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