C is for Cattle

Nature's Lawn Mooowers

Our rare breed of cattle are important members of the nature reserve management team.

The way cattle graze, by grasping tufts of grass with their tongue, creates a  grassland mosaic of short turf and patches of taller grass. This provides ideal cover for birds, insects and small mammals, such as mice and voles.

Without cattle our wild flower meadows would be a tangle of long grass, brambles and bushes.

Cow Dung Dinner

Cow pats are 'Home SWEET Home' to many beetles, worms and flies.

Without them we'd be knee deep in cow dung!

These helpful decomposers are also food to many birds, badgers, bats  and even fish.

Dung Beetles

Large dung beetles, such as this Dor beetle, bury dung in the ground and lay their eggs in it.

The larvae feast on the warm, moist, nutrient rich food.

Rove Beetles

Rove beetles, or Devil's coach horse beetles, feed on the larvae of other insects inside the cow pat.

Yellow dung flies

Yellow dung flies lay their eggs inside the cow pat.

These flies are a favourite food of trout - anglers often make lures designed to imitate them.

Next time you encounter a cow pat, take a stick and have a poke! 

Aphids

While we farm cattle in our meadows, inside their anthills, yellow meadow ants are farming aphids.

As the aphids feed on grass roots, the ants stroke their backs, encouraging them to secrete a sugary honeydew which the ants love to eat.

The ants sometimes clip the wings off aphids to stop them from flying away.

They also use chemicals on their feet to drug the aphids, preventing their wings from developing.

What do the aphids get in return?

A cosy home, plenty of food and a fierce protector!