Cows Create Meadows - The Josephine Porter Institute

Cows Create Meadows

In evolutionary theory, it is often proposed that environments shape organisms, but it is often undervalued how much animals also shape their environments. An easy example is a beaver. Anyone who's met these lovely creatures know how much they like to modify their environments. These small mammals have the capacity to dam up and direct the flow of entire rivers, which has massive ecological effects. 

In the tropics, if you find a grassland area, ruminants have likely been grazing that area down consistently enough to prevent trees from growing. In Karl König's fascinating work Earth and Man he proposes that specific animals create landscapes like themselves. In particular, one that stands out for biodynamic practitioners is the cow, which, König suggests, creates meadows. It's not that cows show up and evolve to correspond to a meadow. No, they will knock over small trees, break limbs, and eat all sorts of vegetation -- but they generally ignore what is currently flowering (unless particularly hungry).

The result? Cows favor flowering plants because they "weed" around them. Rotational grazers know all too well that cows, given free-range choices, will not eat what they dislike which tends to encourage the very plants they don't like to proliferate. In the case of a meadow with clover, yarrow, dandelion, chicory, chamomile (and more) the fact that they go produce flowers that make a plant temporarily unpalatable to grazing only encourages its proliferation.

And, thus, the subtle inner kinship between the cow, the meadow the cow creates, and the bees. Milk and honey belong together because the bee harvests what the cow cannot.
Back to blog

Subscribe to our Emails