Hello folks,

I'm doing research for the possibility of growing this tree as a silvopasture crop, mostly for intensive silvopasture forage for sheep and beef cattle in New York. Many other temperate climate (and tropical) countries have experimented with Paulownia sp. already. China, where these trees are native, has probably been using it as forage for hundreds if not thousands of years. If you have any experience or knowledge of this tree, let's discuss it here! I look forward to the conversation :)

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I just found out that a local farm has this tree in one of their gardens that was planted 7 years ago, climate zone 5b, Berkshire NY. Most years it dies back to the ground and re-sprouts each spring reaching 15 feet tall in one season! Sprouting from a stump is just fine if the tree is being grown as a forage crop :)

Hello again folks,

An update on my Paulownia fodder research. Silvopasture cattle eating fall Paulownia leaves, see picture attached. After one years growth from rooted stem cutting my tree got 15 feet tall! About 100 trees on the Cornell campus are two year old trees from complete winter die back and some are over 25 feet tall as of yesterday! I collected many leaves from those trees multiple times this year to see if the animals I'm working with will eat them... not a single bite until now! Today the cows/bull/steer ate most of the 20 pounds I fed them. Seems either the leaves are more palatable this time of year, or more likely, they are running out of grass and are excited for food after cleaning up the field. My intention here is to see whether this fast growing carbon sequestering tree (10 to 25 feet a year) could work in a mixed polyculture silvopasture planting. Also, for soil health, the more biomass the better and these trees are known to build soil fast. I'll keep you updated as this experiment unfolds :)

It'd be interesting to send some samples at different times of the year to the dairyone lab for nutritional analysis.

We had a Paulownia here at our farm for years till it frosted back during a bad winter and the goats polished off the sprouts.  Took years for it to get established.

Hello Brett. Yes! Dairyone nutritional analysis is a good idea... how to pay for the testing... hmmm? There is definitely something about these leaves that are confusing to livestock. When I try feeding them to pigs, sheep, cattle, I can see that they are seriously considering it. The cattle at Shelterbelt Farm waited until late in the season this year to actually consider it a food, and it took one steers' eating it to get them all going. As for establishment. I did a grow trial this year with willow, popular, linden, locust, ash, Paulownia, mulberry... and Paulownia grew at least twice as tall with 4 times as much biomass as any of the other trees. It seems to me if livestock gain weight with this tree, and our climate keeps warming, it becomes a premier silvopasture tree. With that said, this wet year will be a real test for my tree. I've read that Paulownia does not like wet winter feet. WELL, we are gonna have wet winter feet this year in my test area. If my tree survives and grows to 15 feet again next spring I will be extremely impressed.

Can you say more about how your Paulownia took years to get established, as compared to what, with any kind of browse pressure? And, you said the goats polished it off... I'm assuming you didn't move the goats after a day or two and let the trees rest during a long rotation? Was the tree in full sun, or in the shade of black locust?

Brett Chedzoy said:

It'd be interesting to send some samples at different times of the year to the dairyone lab for nutritional analysis.

We had a Paulownia here at our farm for years till it frosted back during a bad winter and the goats polished off the sprouts.  Took years for it to get established.

Video documentation of Shelterbelt Farm beef cattle finally enjoying Paulownia!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRz95nGcAeE

Tree anti-feedant chemicals can be broken down by ensiling the leaves (sealing air out- many ways to do, quite traditional for cows and hogs).  Also  heat (cooking, traditionally in water), and or pressure (pelletizing, for instance) can work.   

It took me almost an hour to get the type to not jump and send out that response.  Trying again.  I have paulownia seeds, and curious what your cattle say for its season of palatability.  Goats here can eat fresh poplar from large trees but not small (until after frost), and dried only when cut after frost, yet cattle and sheep ate all dried poplars - not a related tree, but just an example of anti-feedant issues.  All livestock loved ENSILED poplars.  Phone voicemail or contact encouraged - get migraines if read much on screen.   207 338-3301

For those interested in utilizing Paulownia for feed for ruminants, although this paper is about rabbits, it seems that it could apply to other animals: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/9/3/95/pdf

Dear All,

I'm working on a new publication about feeding experiences of Paulownia leaves by small ruminants. It would be nice to discuss any kind of experiences, and additionally - of course by the general citation rules - to share nice photos for further use.

You can find here interesting publications about the topic:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325317303_Potential_Use_of...

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324983309_Nutritive_value_...

Is the photo of your goats eating Paulownia?  From where did you get it?  Is it invasive?  My Finnsheep are unusual in that they like to eat invasives like barberry, switchgrass, hickory leaves and twigs, oak leaves and twigs, willow leaves and twigs, and Japanese Knotweed.  I'm pretty sure they would love to eat Paulownia too.  I think I'd get run over if I were between a stand of that and my sheep.

Hello Larry... The Paulownia picture of the goats is from a forage trial from North Carolina I believe, not my goats :) In some places Paulownia has naturalized yes, but it only seems to grow where there has been previous disturbance, and in the cold climate where I am growing it, the tree doesn't get big enough to set seed, as it dies back during the winter. Yes, I think goats would be a good candidate for eating Paulownia. So far, I've tried feeding fresh leaves to sheep, cattle, and pigs. Only the cattle seemed interested after the tree started to senesce in the fall, and the leaves were yellow... I'm not sure but I believe some animals can smell the "woodiness" of the leaves, and prefer more tender plants during the growing season.

Larry Ulfik said:

Is the photo of your goats eating Paulownia?  From where did you get it?  Is it invasive?  My Finnsheep are unusual in that they like to eat invasives like barberry, switchgrass, hickory leaves and twigs, oak leaves and twigs, willow leaves and twigs, and Japanese Knotweed.  I'm pretty sure they would love to eat Paulownia too.  I think I'd get run over if I were between a stand of that and my sheep.

Thanks for sharing those resources. It is my experience that the cattle are not interested in the Paulownia leaves until they start to turn yellow at the end of summer. You mention feeding leaves in the fall in the Nutritive Value article... Do you know why this is? I'm thinking it has something to do with lignin content in the leaves.

Dr. Akos Bodnar said:

Dear All,

I'm working on a new publication about feeding experiences of Paulownia leaves by small ruminants. It would be nice to discuss any kind of experiences, and additionally - of course by the general citation rules - to share nice photos for further use.

You can find here interesting publications about the topic:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325317303_Potential_Use_of...

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324983309_Nutritive_value_...

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