Do cows eat mushrooms?
Yes they do. Our cows often bypass the grass to go for ivy, reeds, young hawthorn shoots and anything they can reach in my garden. Just like us they appreciate a varied and natural diet. At this time of year I am in fierce competition with our cows to get to wild field mushrooms before them. I love eating mushrooms, especial field mushrooms and puffballs. An 8 inch field mushroom cooked whole in butter, served on toast is my favourite lunch, just behind a thick slice of puffball cooked with streaky bacon. Finding the remains of a cow-trodden or munched mushroom is frustrating but there will always be more tucked away somewhere. With some significant rain over the last ten days I have been carefully checking out my favourite spots and slowly they have been starting to deliver a late summer treat.
The children too love mushroom hunting and it’s never too young to start to explain the do’s and don’ts. Identification is key, and whilst I’ve used the name “field mushroom”, what we’re actually picking now are a mix of Horse, Macro and Field mushrooms. The book I swear by and recommend is the River Cottage Handbook No.1: Mushrooms by John Wright.
The other benefit of finding fungi is that it can be a real indicator of soil health. Having that complex web of micro organisms doing their secret hidden work beneath your feet, fixing carbon and making nutrients available for grass means that you have the building blocks for successful farming. Healthy soil full of fungi leads right through to healthy grass, healthy cattle and more healthy beef on your plate. As our beef cattle only eat grass and other plants found in the pasture and hedges (and the odd mushroom) this is massively important. They are not fed grain, imported soya or food industry waste. Interestingly the “pasture-fed” diet gives beef that is lower in saturated fat, higher in total omega 3 fatty acids and higher in vitamin B, E and Beta Carotene than intensive grain-fed cattle.