I'm planting a mixture of trees, closely spaced, on a open patch of land that I haven't had much luck converting to pasture. The horrible hay season of last year made me think of the resiliency of trees and how they use trees during drought in Australia and NZ.

I'm planting Ash, Mulberry, Poplar, Willow, Black Locust, and Honey Locust. My plan is to pollard them & feed to the livestock, eventually letting the livestock in to forage.

In the meantime, I'm pollarding existing trees on my property to get a feel for it. I'm hoping the regrowth is easier to harvest then the first cut which is a bit of a pain. I'm getting several yields out of the pollarded trees, livestock fodder, bolts for mushrooms, a bit of firewood, and opening up the canopy.

I've started with some beech and the cows & sheep really liked it.

Two questions:

1: Are the only trees to stay away form Maple and Cherry? Is Striped Maple bad too?

2: Can anyone ID this tree for me?

I think it's some type of willow. Not very large - maybe 20 feet. It grows right at my pond edge

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looks like two plants in the picture. The conifer seedling appears to be a larch.

Tree fodder can certainly be a good quality and opportune feed for most livestock.  I came across this article on how trees are used to feed animals in areas where forages aren't an option. http://www.grahamandrews.com/fodder_trees.html 

Some personal observations regarding tree fodder:

  1. It can be labor-intensive, especially through pollarding (as you've come to see).  Easiest way is to rotate livestock through areas when thinning trees to glean what they can from the crows.  The downside is that it doesn't take long to accumulate a lot of slash (tree debris) on the ground. On our farm, it has worked best when cutting small-diameter, suppressed trees in the lower strata (trees that don't have large, rigid crows).  Small trees can be left hinged to the stump if you want the feed source to persist beyond the initial feeding.
  2. We've yet to experience toxicity issues with any of our animals (including the horses) from eating tree fodder (including red maple and cherry), but that doesn't mean there isn't a significant risk and EVERYONE should ease into this one.  Some of the things that we do to minimize the risks are:
  • keep animals +/- continously exposed to sources of browse so that their curiosity of something novel doesn't compel them to gorge
  • make sure there's plenty of other stuff to eat (like forages) - not just a couple of maple tops inside a small electronet paddock.  Livestock are often able to dilute or neutralize toxins if they have a diverse diet of other plants and plant compounds.
  • A balanced mineral mix seems to help (and plenty of fresh water).  A local cattleman here had prussic acid (wilted cherry) poisoning issues here a couple of falls ago.  Vet finally determined it was linked to selenium deficiency (the cows were only receiving white salt blocks)
  • Stressed animals are usually going to be more susceptible than healthy ones
  • I haven't found any information comparing the nutritional quality of tree leaves over the course of the growing season, but suspect they maintain a fairly high level of crude protein until they start to change color in the fall

 

 

I remember you telling the story about the cattle dying from wilted cherry at a conference a few years ago but I didn't recall the selenium deficiency -just that everyone was panicked about a possible new cattle disease.

I do know that I have been slightly skeptical of the poison lists because they always include black locust which cows, sheep & goats are clearly fine with.

I'll proceed cautiously, but with a little more confidence. I've got a lot of striped maple to get rid of so it' be great to use it as fodder.

Any thought on putting the leaves and small (1/4") branches thru a chipper? I was thinking that at least what they don't eat would break down quicker and avoid the slash accumulation you mentioned.

No, the first pic is of a leaf, and the second pic is of the whole tree. Definitely not a conifer, some kind of willow. Those little pine needle looking thing are seeds or catkins or something.

Brett Chedzoy said:

looks like two plants in the picture. The conifer seedling appears to be a larch.

 

Just my own observation but my stock will eat the leaves and petiole, not the actual stems, I would think chipping the stems into the mixture would increase the fiber too much as there would be a lot more stem to leaf ratio.  I also wonder how much of the stems would be digestible fiber, which may cause your stock to actually loose weight with a full belly.  In some ways similar to corn silage that is chopped when the fiber is too high or does not ensile properly. 

CJ Sloane said:

I remember you telling the story about the cattle dying from wilted cherry at a conference a few years ago but I didn't recall the selenium deficiency -just that everyone was panicked about a possible new cattle disease.

I do know that I have been slightly skeptical of the poison lists because they always include black locust which cows, sheep & goats are clearly fine with.

I'll proceed cautiously, but with a little more confidence. I've got a lot of striped maple to get rid of so it' be great to use it as fodder.

Any thought on putting the leaves and small (1/4") branches thru a chipper? I was thinking that at least what they don't eat would break down quicker and avoid the slash accumulation you mentioned.

I think the palatability/digestibility  of the stems may depend on the species and age. New growth certainly look more tender and with willow I have watched them eat the whole branch if it's tender.

I don't think chipping even the small stuff would pencil out in any way, shape or form.  Might make things look prettier, but wouldn't accomplish much in terms of improving the silvopastures.  Picture below of a current thinning at Cornell's Arnot Forest where the "best if left, and cut the rest".  Trees are utilized to 4" diameter.  The slash (residues) wouldn't impede livestock grazing much (especially at high densities) and should break down quickly. 

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