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Trees as goat forage - is it possible?

 
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This is an idea I've had for a long time, and I've done some research on it. Most sources recommend that a goat's diet should be primarily based on high quality forage such as grass and alfalfa, and only to supplement a goat's diet with various trees and shrubs. I suspect many of these sources are simply stating what is typically done with goats, and simply copying what other people have said, without ever really pushing the limits of what can be done.

With enough diversity in their diet (and not just one tree species for forage), and a gradual change in diet, could goats be weaned off of ordinary forage and live on a diet of trees alone? They seem to be the most versatile creatures in terms of what they can eat and there isn't a lot of highly edible forage in their natural environment in the Middle East.

Many trees such as Oaks, Douglas Fir, Madrone, etc. offer the potential for nearly unlimited livestock forage if they can actually eat this for the bulk of their nutritional needs. These trees produce potential forage without the need for any supplemental water, or the effort of cultivation. Also it's potential forage that it literally just going to waste in logging and firewood cutting, typically just burned to get rid of it. There are some trees such as cedar and yew that are poisonous to an extent and probably shouldn't be fed to goats, but most trees either have a lot of resin (eg Douglas Fir) or are bitter but not necessarily poisonous.

How practical is this? Would it actually work? Has anyone on here actually tried anything similar to this?
 
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Nathan, I'm having trouble figuring out from what you've written whether you're talking about "leaves" or just "woody branches" as the significant source of the goat's food.

My neighbors had goats and they got sick at one point because the neighbors were feeding them too much grain and not enough forage. Similarly with geese, which I have, their bodies are designed to eat huge quantities of grass which has low nutritional value, and feeding them too much grain is not good for them.

So, if you're talking about pollarding or coppicing a large variety of shrubs and trees to provide lots of fresh leaf growth along with twigs, I suspect you could plan a paddock/shift system which provided plenty of goat food although I'd be aware of micronutrients that some areas are low in (there's one in my area that people who know more about goats/cows/horses etc suggest needs to be supplemented if they're on an all-grass diet, but I've forgotten which one).

I'll also add that in areas where animals are being fed low-nutrient diets, they've often got breeds that have evolved tolerance for that environment, or are bred/managed less intensively. In nature, a goat would only provide enough milk for its offspring - not enough to share with humans - and would likely do so for a shorter time than humans would like. Management may also be key to developing a system like that.
 
Nathan Watson
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Jay Angler wrote:Nathan, I'm having trouble figuring out from what you've written whether you're talking about "leaves" or just "woody branches" as the significant source of the goat's food.

.



The idea would be to drop a tree, then cut off the branches as goat feed. It would be up to the goats to go through it and decide what they wanted to eat from there. I assume they would ignore the woody branches and just eat the foliage as much as possible. In the case of Douglas Fir, it would be rather difficult and time consuming to eat the needles without also eating the twigs with it. With oak, madrone, maple, and other broadleaf trees it would be fairly easy for them to eat the leaves without eating the branches.

As for the concerns about micronutrients, that's why I wouldn't just rely on one species of tree, but a diverse mix of different trees that aren't related to each other. Then let them browse through the menu and decide how much of each tree to eat.

Thank you for your quick and informative answer to this question. These goats would be raised primarily for meat, not milk. Do you happen to know of any breeds of goats that would do well on such a low quality forage diet? Any idea where I would find such a goat?
 
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 I would think very fast growing trees like mulberry and moringa would be good candidates, they both could be nearly stripped a couple times a year and keep on growing. Also growing comfrey and sweet potato vines around the trees as well.
 
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I have heard from more than one goat owner that you have to be careful letting your goats forage in the woods, because they WILL girdle treees.  Next thing you know, you won't have a forest any more!
 
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Ralph Sluder wrote:  I would think very fast growing trees like mulberry and moringa would be good candidates, they both could be nearly stripped a couple times a year and keep on growing. Also growing comfrey and sweet potato vines around the trees as well.



It depends on the acreage, soil moisture, and the amount of irrigation water available. In my climate on the West Coast, Mulberry might not grow all that fast without supplemental irrigation, unless it's at the bottom of a large hill where water naturally seeps out. Many of the native trees such as Madrones, Oaks, and Douglas Fir can handle seasonal drought better than a Mulberry would, due to their waxy leaves or needles which trap in moisture.

What I had in mind was a large acreage (20+ acres) and thinning the bigger trees heavily, allowing for growth in the understory. Always keep harvesting the biggest trees allowing smaller trees to keep growing in the understory and this can go on forever. This would provide both goat forage and firewood at the same time.
 
Jay Angler
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Nathan Watson wrote:

In my climate on the West Coast, Mulberry might not grow all that fast without supplemental irrigation, unless it's at the bottom of a large hill where water naturally seeps out.

Yes, I haven't found Mulberry very hardy except where it's getting some support. That said, it's excellent quality forage, so if you can plant some where the goat's water will be near and use their "gently used" water to supplement the Mulberry you may be able to stack functions that way. I have ducks and I'm always trying to figure out how I can safely get some of my ducks closer to where I'd like more water! Unfortunately the combo of aerial predators and lack of fencing is delaying that goal.

Always keep harvesting the biggest trees allowing smaller trees to keep growing in the understory and this can go on forever. This would provide both goat forage and firewood at the same time.

I've heard that goats will eat both Scotch Broom and English Ivy so long as it's not their sole diet, and it's considered invasive here. It's why I've looked into the topic a little, but the aforementioned lack of fencing was the limitation.

Two things I'd research: 1. What ratio would allow your need for firewood balance your need for goats? Goats are groupies, so I'm still thinking you might need some dedicated forage just for them.
2. If you're giving them access to the areas you're cutting (as opposed to moving the cut material to them), will you be able to contain them enough that they won't kill any new trees just starting out. This is an issue in Eastern North America where the deer population is so high that it's preventing the Carolinian Forest system from naturally regenerating.
 
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Here is an interesting video about using tree hay--I haven't tried this myself but looks interesting. I found this video a while back when I was researching coppicing and pollarding for a blog post.

 
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My goats are doing well on trees with no pasture. I feed pregnant and milking does a supplement of lucerne and grain, and all goats have access to a mineral lick. My goats like white maple/sycamore maple a lot.
 
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Kate Downham wrote:My goats are doing well on trees with no pasture. I feed pregnant and milking does a supplement of lucerne and grain, and all goats have access to a mineral lick. My goats like white maple/sycamore maple a lot.



Maples tend to be among the more edible of trees, the leaves of some species aren't even bitter. I've actually eaten a handful of leaves off the local Broadleaf Maples before, and felt no ill effects. That means fresh green Maple leaves, they become toxic when they're wilted according to my sources. If a human can eat them then I'm sure a goat or a cow can too. There aren't a lot of places around here where there is enough year round soil moisture for Maples, mostly just gulleys, drainages, creeks, etc. How do your goats do on the less edible trees in your area? Conifers, oaks, etc? There are lots of Douglas Fir here and I can get oaks to grow easily here too.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:

Two things I'd research: 1. What ratio would allow your need for firewood balance your need for goats? Goats are groupies, so I'm still thinking you might need some dedicated forage just for them.
2. If you're giving them access to the areas you're cutting (as opposed to moving the cut material to them), will you be able to contain them enough that they won't kill any new trees just starting out. This is an issue in Eastern North America where the deer population is so high that it's preventing the Carolinian Forest system from naturally regenerating.



I don't think it's practical to allow goats free range over all trees. As you said, they would graze all the small trees, preventing them from getting any bigger. The goats would be given a fenced in area of maybe an acre with a few trees, shrubs, boulders, and some grass and weeds just for their entertainment. Most of their food would be moved into the area from elsewhere. Also once a tree grows above a goat's reach then the top has to be cut off to allow them to keep browsing the tree, might as well not let them free range if I'm going to have to cut the trees anyways.

I hadn't really given much thought to balancing the firewood and forage needs until you brought it up. Trees would be grown for both firewood and forage so that nothing is wasted. This would probably require a certain level of experience and trial and error to get the right balance in the long term and plan accordingly. I'd need to figure out how much firewood is required in a year, and how much forage is required in a year per goat. Then use math to determine the ideal size and shape of each future tree. For example, trees growing closely together and competing for light will tend to have a long tall tree trunk and only a small amount of foliage at the canopy layer. (more wood and less forage). Whereas trees with more spacing will tend to have a shorter tree trunk and foliage all the way up the tree trunk.  (more forage and less wood) Then there's also the issue of how long a tree will stay green after you cut it, even in a cool damp creekside location a tree would probably dry out in a week or 2 during summer and any foliage they couldn't eat in that time would go to waste. Bearing in mind of course that there should be multiple different species of trees on the menu for them to browse through so that their nutritional needs are met.
 
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Goats do eat the foliage of trees, but they also enjoy stripping the bark from any branches and standing trees they can reach. The bark layer has lots of sugars that they can digest apparently.
 
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This is pretty much my plan, but I don't have the goats yet. I do plan on protecting the older oaks that I don't want girdled, and allowing the goats to eat the smaller trees and shrubs. If they like madrone, I have a lot of it. It's kind of a weedy tree, overtakes areas that haven't been allowed to burn and resprouts like crazy. But the madrone is in the mixed conifer/hardwood forest, and I'm planning on keeping the goats in the oak chaparral areas. So it would have to be cut and taken to them.

I've actually never heard of goats preferring pasture, like you would keep for cows. Which was why I was thinking that goats would be a better option for my land.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:Goats do eat the foliage of trees, but they also enjoy stripping the bark from any branches and standing trees they can reach. The bark layer has lots of sugars that they can digest apparently.



Yes, bark does indeed have lots of sugars and other digestible carbs. Trees can't grow when they are under drought stress, so in an area with a normal 4 seasons climate, the native trees will do all their growth during spring when there is plenty of water available. Growth stops as soon as the soil starts to dry out in summer, at that point, all the sugar generated by photosynthesis is just getting stored in the bark and roots of the tree, to be used for the next season's growth the following spring. It's also a reservoir of extra energy, allowing rapid regrowth and recovery if the tree gets damaged in any way. In many trees there are far more digestible sugars and other calories in the bark than any other part of the tree.
 
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Nathan Watson wrote:

Kate Downham wrote:My goats are doing well on trees with no pasture. I feed pregnant and milking does a supplement of lucerne and grain, and all goats have access to a mineral lick. My goats like white maple/sycamore maple a lot.



Maples tend to be among the more edible of trees, the leaves of some species aren't even bitter. I've actually eaten a handful of leaves off the local Broadleaf Maples before, and felt no ill effects. That means fresh green Maple leaves, they become toxic when they're wilted according to my sources. If a human can eat them then I'm sure a goat or a cow can too. There aren't a lot of places around here where there is enough year round soil moisture for Maples, mostly just gulleys, drainages, creeks, etc. How do your goats do on the less edible trees in your area? Conifers, oaks, etc? There are lots of Douglas Fir here and I can get oaks to grow easily here too.



They seem to go for different trees and different parts of trees at different times of the year. Here we have mostly dogwood (Australian types of it?) and wattles along with the maple. They also eat ferns and reeds. There are also some eucalypts, but they don't get touched other than the odd curious nibble.

I think bark eating has reduced since I started offering a mineral lick that they can always access rather than mixing minerals into treats. They often go for bark more when they need copper.

They tend to eat the maples first, with some bites of other stuff, and then when there are less maples they eat more of the other ones. They seem to prefer the top leaves of dogwood scrub when I knock it down for them rather than the ones that are at goat height, so it might be that more sunlight on some plants makes them more palatable.
 
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It sure is
e42a03187099bd58a4db67edbac89e288100aa9a.jpg
[Thumbnail for e42a03187099bd58a4db67edbac89e288100aa9a.jpg]
 
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nathan wrote:Then there's also the issue of how long a tree will stay green after you cut it, even in a cool damp creekside location a tree would probably dry out in a week or 2 during summer and any foliage they couldn't eat in that time would go to waste.  



Perhaps limbing the tree a few limbs at a time would reduce waste.
 
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Nathan Watson wrote:

In many trees there are far more digestible sugars and other calories in the bark than any other part of the tree.

That makes sense to me - beavers eat the bark off trees/branches. They chew a tree to knock it down, but they don't actually eat the wood - the beaver chips are left where they were chewed.
 
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Nathan,

I can tell you from many years of experience raising goats, that goats would rather eat tree leaves than anything else on planet Earth. Goats are in the Caprinae family - like deer. They are browsers and would rather eat standing up on their rear legs reaching up for leaves than grazing on grass. In fact grazing grass is not actually healthy for goats, and is the primary reason that people have so many problems with their goats getting intestinal parasites. Goats benefit from the tannins in certain tree leaves like oaks. I was never able to get my goats off of worm medicines until I started feeding tree leaves. So in my opinion a diet of tree leaves in the most species appropriate diet you could replicate in captivity. The real problem I see is where you could find such an endless supply of tree leaves in fenced-in area?
 
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I think the idea is to feed the branches of trees that are being trimmed or taken down. This is a great idea for me as I have 80 acres of mostly forest that needs fuel reduction work.
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote:I think the idea is to feed the branches of trees that are being trimmed or taken down. This is a great idea for me as I have 80 acres of mostly forest that needs fuel reduction work.



Stacey. That is a great idea. I feed my goats tree trimmings daily too, and it's pretty funny to watch - when I pull up with a truckload of limbs they will run across an entire field of grass pushing and shoving each other to get to those limbs. Nathan asked if goats could live on nothing but tree leaves. I believe they would thrive on such a diet. It would just be a lot of work to sustain in a contained environment because they will eventually strip the area clean of all the leaves they can reach and then would need to have limbs cut down or brought to them. They can really clean up a brushy area astonishingly fast.
 
Jay Angler
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Stacy Witscher wrote:I think the idea is to feed the branches of trees that are being trimmed or taken down. This is a great idea for me as I have 80 acres of mostly forest that needs fuel reduction work.

This also supports the concept of a "multiple paddock" system that the animals rotate through. This can be hard in reality because fencing is expensive and can be difficult to erect in a forest area. But anyone wanting to create a food forest on open land, such as Mark Shepard did, could more easily incorporate an area with 8 or more goat paddocks with suitable plants inside, and a couple of "safe zones" where people brought cuttings to the goats.
 
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Hi Nathan, your plan for your goats sounds like a winner. Even cedar can be fed to goats and they will eat it with gusto (and get dewormed in the process!) if they are eating a diet that isn't supplemented heavily with sweet feed or grain. Goats, just like humans, can get spoiled eating junk and stop eating what's really good for them. As an aside, on a natural diet like you are talking about, I have found that there are very few health issues that come up that can't be fixed by a dose of molasses, some sea salt, or half a dropper of poke root tincture. Also, like someone else said, goats are far less likely to go after bark when they have adequate minerals in the diet. I have used mineral blocks, unprocessed sea salt, and seaweed for this purpose, all work well. (Disclamer: I'm not a vet, I'm not offering advice; I just have a little over 10 years experience raising meat and milk goats, I'm sharing what I've seen is all )
So far as breeds that are pre-adapted to this type of minimalistic lifestyle, I would look into spanish breeds, specifically Malagueña/Costeña and Murciano Granadina. They are gorgeous animals, beautiful temperaments without the stubbornness of the more common boers and nubians, and perform impeccably as double-purpose for meat and milk.
 
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That is a pretty good idea and I have also read about traditional hay leave systems. Does anyone know how black locust and bamboo would work for goat feed? That is what I am considering on planting for our firewood needs and I am also considering if we could have some "wool" goats, for fiber, meat and possibly also milk.
 
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Markus Padourek wrote: Does anyone know how black locust and bamboo would work for goat feed? That is what I am considering on planting for our firewood needs and I am also considering if we could have some "wool" goats, for fiber, meat and possibly also milk.

Bamboo isn't known to be particularly nutritious. I know that the shoots are nutritious, but need to be cooked for human consumption (cyanide). My geese eat them raw (unless I protect the area in the spring) but they seem smart enough not to eat too many at one time. I would certainly do more research and hopefully someone with experience will comment.
 
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Markus, my goats love bamboo! There isn't any black locust around here, so I don't have specific experience with that, but there are very few plants that a goat will reject if they are allowed access to a variety of browse. The only plant my goats won't touch here is foxglove, which of course is highly poisonous. Otherwise they aren't picky, but they do thrive when they have lots of options.
 
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Goats are great climbers and beside the picture in the recent post where the goats are a touristic attraction in Morocco climbing the Argan trees, eating leaves and their Fruits.
After the locals picking up the poop with the cleaned seeds to produce the famous Argan Oil.

In Karachi (Pakistan) they roaming the Markets and chewing Cardboard as main staple..

Well our neighbor gives them healthy Moringa Olifera, Leuceana wich probably makes the meat taste better than cardboard fed goats.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:

Markus Padourek wrote: Does anyone know how black locust and bamboo would work for goat feed? That is what I am considering on planting for our firewood needs and I am also considering if we could have some "wool" goats, for fiber, meat and possibly also milk.

Bamboo isn't known to be particularly nutritious. I know that the shoots are nutritious, but need to be cooked for human consumption (cyanide). My geese eat them raw (unless I protect the area in the spring) but they seem smart enough not to eat too many at one time. I would certainly do more research and hopefully someone with experience will comment.



Locusts are in the Fabaceae family, meaning they are related to beans, peas, etc. and can fix nitrogen in their roots. Plants in this family are a favorite of herbivores due to their high protein content. However, being a favorite of herbivores, almost all plants in this family have toxins which limit how much can be eaten by an herbivore before they will get sick from it. The important thing with any potentially toxic plant is that goats have other options. Deer never get poisoned by any of the toxic plants they eat, because they instinctively avoid eating too much of any one plant and they have other options available. When domestic animals get poisoned, it is because they had nothing else to eat, and were forced to eat too much of a toxic plant so they wouldn't starve.

According to this source Black Locust is toxic to goats: it http://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/goatlist.htm

Another consideration is that Black Locust has thorns and will be difficult for goats to eat without hurting themselves.

You're going to find that Black Locust is very easy to grow. Here in Southern Oregon I once saw it growing in the woods, in spite of the fact that our summers are long, hot, and dry (3-4 months of no rain at least). It can be invasive in some areas, but it's not going to take over the forest here, it just escapes cultivation on rare occasions because so many people plant it in their yards.
 
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Nathan Watson wrote:

Jay Angler wrote:

Markus Padourek wrote: Does anyone know how black locust and bamboo would work for goat feed? That is what I am considering on planting for our firewood needs and I am also considering if we could have some "wool" goats, for fiber, meat and possibly also milk.

Bamboo isn't known to be particularly nutritious. I know that the shoots are nutritious, but need to be cooked for human consumption (cyanide). My geese eat them raw (unless I protect the area in the spring) but they seem smart enough not to eat too many at one time. I would certainly do more research and hopefully someone with experience will comment.



Locusts are in the Fabaceae family, meaning they are related to beans, peas, etc. and can fix nitrogen in their roots. Plants in this family are a favorite of herbivores due to their high protein content. However, being a favorite of herbivores, almost all plants in this family have toxins which limit how much can be eaten by an herbivore before they will get sick from it. The important thing with any potentially toxic plant is that goats have other options. Deer never get poisoned by any of the toxic plants they eat, because they instinctively avoid eating too much of any one plant and they have other options available. When domestic animals get poisoned, it is because they had nothing else to eat, and were forced to eat too much of a toxic plant so they wouldn't starve.

According to this source Black Locust is toxic to goats: it http://poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/goatlist.htm

Another consideration is that Black Locust has thorns and will be difficult for goats to eat without hurting themselves.

You're going to find that Black Locust is very easy to grow. Here in Southern Oregon I once saw it growing in the woods, in spite of the fact that our summers are long, hot, and dry (3-4 months of no rain at least). It can be invasive in some areas, but it's not going to take over the forest here, it just escapes cultivation on rare occasions because so many people plant it in their yards.



Moringa olifera is a far better option.
High protein and boosted with all kind of goodies and as far I know they content no or very little Tannins.
Some countries use it as a 100% forage tree hay.
The grow rate is one the best in the tree world and very easy to grow, literally put a cutting in the ground and be stunned when after 10 days new growth is visible.

Nitogenfixer as well that's where Moringa gets the Name Miracle Tree. Our Mangoes have all Moringa as neighbor tree and bearing every year fruits (as a Mango does always a partial side of the tree)
All kind of domestic animals from Tilapias, Chicken over Rabbits to Goats and Bees, all love it. (Humans as well)

Mix some Grasses (even young Vetiver Grass for erosion control) to it and your goats are happy
 
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Don't forget shrubs. Goats love shrubs, vines, brambles, etc. They are big multiflora rose enthusiasts but will also happily destroy other roses).

My friend with goats feeds used christmas trees to her herd for midwinter vitamins. BEWARE, this does require very careful review of the trees if donated to be sure no hooks have been left behind.
 
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My goats have stripped everything from as high as they can reach to the ground. Last year, I'd go around the property with them pulling vines down out of the trees. They sure liked them because there are no more vines.
We're having an early spring in NW Arkansas and the trees have started to bud out good. I'll make the rounds with the girls and pull limbs down so they can eat the tender, young leaves.  They love those sweet gum tree seed balls when  they're forming! They even jump up to lean on me to get to the leaves.
My girls are finishing the third round bale of hay of the winter. I lost a goat because I left a bale on it's side and the goats ate the lower part. One girl was eating away and the top collapsed on her. I couldn't get to her in time.
Now that the grass is coming in they're eating it right at dirt level causing parasite problems. They won't eat hay when new green stuff is available so it's a vicious cycle.
Their pasture is half woods half pasture with a small pond. The woods include elms, oaks, cedars and other scrub. They have only barked one species of tree. I don't know what kind they were but the girls knocked them over and stripped the bark.
I do have one little boy I neutered and he always comes over to put his head against my leg for petting. He doesn't know I took his nads and that one day I'm gonna eat him.
 
Michael Cox
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This is bugging me. My google-foo has failed me completely. Ages ago I read some fascinating information about a technique like you describe using oak tree limbs as fodder for goats. The setup was a classic hay meadow - I suspect hand scythed - but with oak trees planted about 10ft apart. The trunks stood about 8ft tall.

The side limbs were systematically, and regularly "shredded" (the term used in the article) and harvested for goat hay, by putting them up in a barn. I suspect it was all managed with hand tools like bill hooks. The main trunks grew fantastic knobbles and lumps where the tree had healed over each year.  Ultimately the trees themselves were harvested and the wood, complete with intricate wood grain and knots, use for making furniture.

Unfortunately the term "shredding" "shredded" has come to be associated with mechanical shredders like those used by tree surgeons making wood chips, so any search based on that term now pulls up blanks. I think the original info I saw was an eastern european translation - possibly a write up in English by someone visiting Poland?

 
Jay Angler
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Michael Cox wrote:

Ultimately the trees themselves were harvested and the wood, complete with intricate wood grain and knots, use for making furniture.  

That's great "stacking functions". I imagine the grain in the knobby bits would look fantastic.
It sounds like a description of one use for "Pollarding" - did you try searching under that term?
 
Michael Cox
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It’s not quite pollarding though, and wasn’t referred to like that. Branches resprout from the full length of the main stem, not just at the top. It was quite a different growth pattern.
 
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Michael Cox wrote:It’s not quite pollarding though, and wasn’t referred to like that. Branches resprout from the full length of the main stem, not just at the top. It was quite a different growth pattern.

Very interesting - I wonder if it was a specific variety of Oak? We have "Big Leaf" Maple here that is incredibly good at sprouting, but there are other varieties that I don't think are so inclined. Big Leaf Maple is considered a "soft-wood", but Sugar Maple is definitely a "hard-wood" for example. (Although, we can tap Big Leaf Maple and get syrup - apparently not quite as nice, but still sugar. I haven't tried it as my weather is marginal, but some year I may.)
 
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I've fed TONS of pollarded bradford pear and bamboo to goats, sheep, and the occasional cow over the years.  The part I have struggled with is the labor to collect, haul, and cleanup a meaningful amount.  Right now, my children help me cut and drag bamboo to the animals and clean up the stripped branches afterwards.  I'm actively thinking about redesigning my fences, so once my kids have moved out, I can still keep up the bamboo feeding with as little manual labor as possible.

I have never had a health problem in the animals that I could link to the bamboo feeding.   I believe the species with cyanide compounds are the more tropical clumpers, all of mine are temperate runners.  Our animals also have free access to hay, fallen leaves, and pasture at all times.  We are warm enough that a bit of winter ryegrass grows in all but the few coldest weeks of winter.  They much prefer FRESHLY cut bamboo leaves to hay.  After a day or two and the leaves dry out, they will not touch them.
 
Michael Cox
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Someone has put together a pdf of tree hay in Europe!

Great pictures and some commentary in the text

Pollard Hay in Europe

They stress that this is primarily a cold climate/high altitude technique, where livestock are indoors for some months. The tree hay is considered to be more reliable than grass hay.
 
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Hi all,

as I visited my in laws living in East Frisian (Northern Germany) they have a Linden tree beside their House which is more than 50 years old.
They have no cattle anymore but still telling the story about their pigs who got this hay in the winter mixed with kitchen scraps and more tree hay from all neighbors.

So the community shared each year 3 pigs which got butchered at first frost.

The tradition to pollard the tree lives still on, year by year. (Probably now to avoid its trunk getting to big)

That's why I was asking in another post if it is possible to pollard 8 year old Hevea brasiliensis rubber trees down to 1.2m and use them as living fence posts avoiding termites.
But even living in a rubber producing country I not know if a cut off Rubber tree will regrow as nobody does it here.

Pollard them would bring the new growth in reach for goats who love to eat the leaves, this I have seen myself.

here the "old traditional" tree in east Frisia.
DSC_0199.JPG
[Thumbnail for DSC_0199.JPG]
 
Nathan Watson
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I appreciate all of the informative replies to this thread that I've received. It seems the consensus is that, goats can not only eat trees, but thrive on trees, given the right variety to choose from. I have several follow up questions to ask and any experience or knowledge would be appreciated. There are many Douglas Firs in my area. They are the dominant forest canopy and there would be an almost unlimited supply available. They aren't necessarily poisonous (even humans can drink tea from them), but too much resin (pitch) can't possibly be good for a goat. How much of a goat's diet can consist of Douglas Fir before it becomes too much? Also, many of the other native trees and shrubs are bitter and high in tannins - Madrone, Oak, Manzanita, etc. Is there a limit to how much tannin a goat can have in it's diet before it becomes too much? If a goat's diet is 1/3 Douglas Fir and other conifers, 1/3 high-tannin leaves, and 1/3 other stuff (such as Black Locust and other trees and shrubs suggested in this thread), would this be a suitable diet for a goat?
 
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