Dung beetles are important insects that help dramatically with the decomposition of animal manure. Both adults and larvae consume large amounts of dung. There are several different species; some live in woodlands and others dwell in pastures. They are a great help in aerating soil, decomposing manure, and adding nutrients to the soil. By aiding decomposition of manure patties, the reduce pasture fouling and encourage more grass and forbes to grow.
Here is a cute, short video that shows a bit of how dung beetles operate and how persistant they are.
Many small dairy and beef herds still use pastures to provide the major part of their nutritional forage. More cattle producers are using daily rotations on their pastures. The cattle are moved every 1-4 days to new paddocks. Dung beetles help speed the decomposition and encourage good nutrient distribution. This practice of moving the cattle daily, or even weekly, minimizes overgrazing and helps the pastures be more productive without outside fertilizers.
Pesticides, on pastures or animals have a strong negative impact on dung beetle population. If you do not use pesticides, check the manure patties for little black or brown beetles that burrow in the patties. They take the manure down into the soil, helping put the nutrients where they do the most good.
We have also used cow manure as fertilizer in our heirloom gardens.