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Tree Hay - some links and thoughts

 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I came across this idea first in Ben Law's book where he refered to it as 'shredding'. The basic idea is to take small branches in full leaf and to dry them for feed in the winter. Google searching for 'goat hay' and 'shredding' doesn't bring up anything helpful, but 'Tree hay' does.

We have an area of self seeded willow coppice that i could use for this in the future, when we get some livestock of our own.



Photos of a tree hay harvest - not much detailed info

Article on the use of tree hay - photo of an ancient tree harvested for fodder

forum discussion on tree hay


While this info is all interesting, there seems to be very little detailed information on application of these ideas:

How much hay do you need?
How much tree hay equates to a bale of ordinary hay?
Does the hay need special handling or storage - ie a barn for storing until winter
What can be done to make the process efficient - tools, handling methods etc...?

Any info or personal experiences welcome!

Mike
 
John Elliott
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Ya know......you don't have to dry it all the way to hay to store it. You can also let it wilt for a few hours and then stuff it in a container to ferment. Toss a little vinegar on it and get the lactic fermentation going. Make some tree silage.

I've chopped kudzu and dried it out all the way to kudzu hay. Makes a good supplement to the chicken's feed.
 
Michael Cox
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Interesting - although it would presumably need more chopping to get it stuffed tightly into a drum or something. The trees i have have thick trunks/stems that would take quite a while to prepare, whereas i could throw a whole 20ft long stem into the field in one go.

Also, i forgot to mention... nitrogen fixing trees would be really good to use here. I could imagine intercropping a row of n-fixers with other crops. When you shred the stems from the tree some of the roots die back, adding nitrogen to the soil.
 
tel jetson
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I've done it with black locust. I cut all the branches off and dried them on the ground for two days in September. then I put them in the hay loft. worked pretty well for a first try, though I would want to figure out a more labor efficient way to do it in the future.

because there's a fair amount of inedible wood left in the mix and it wasn't ever compressed like a bail of hay would be, it took up a lot more space than a comparable amount of grass or alfalfa hay. the goats were pretty darn fond of it, though.

in the future, I would like to shred the black locusts twice each year. once earlier in the summer after the trees are completely leafed out, then once more toward the end of summer while it's still warm and dry enough to dry the leaves. black locust is a vigorous enough tree that it ought to handle the abuse just fine, and I'm sure the sea berries nearby would appreciate getting more sun.
 
Julia Winter
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I did this on a very small scale for our pet bunny. She LOVES apple branches, so when I pruned the trees of water sprouts in summer, I stashed them in a dry spot. The leaves dried but were still somewhat green, and she ate them happily, then gnawed at the yummy apple bark.
 
J Abatis
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My Katadhin like poplar and pine leaves with their grass. I have not thought of haying trees as I am working to graze year round with minimal hay, even here in Montana. But would appreciate success stories with tree branch hay.
 
R Scott
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We feed all the trimmings from pruning, and coppice willows for feed during droughts, but never thought about trying to save it for winter.

Labor seems to be the issue, although I don't think it would be any more than trying to store hay with a scythe and pitchfork.
 
Michael Cox
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Julia Winter wrote:I did this on a very small scale for our pet bunny. She LOVES apple branches, so when I pruned the trees of water sprouts in summer, I stashed them in a dry spot. The leaves dried but were still somewhat green, and she ate them happily, then gnawed at the yummy apple bark.


Julia - good idea simply collecting prunings that are made day to day around the place. Not much additional work, provided that you have things set up well. Some kind of rack with a roof, probably adjacent to where you were going to be doing reasonable amount of regular pruning would do the trick. My guess is you wouldn't replace much quantity of hay that way, but you would be providing a more varied diet.
 
Doug Mac
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Caution; wilted stone fruit (plums, peaches, etc.) leaves are poisonous to goats. Fresh or dried are ok.

My goats eat dried alder leaves all the time. Why not just rake up some leaves?
 
Julia Winter
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When I dried apple leaves on the branches, they stayed more green than if I raked them up in the fall. More like hay than like straw. Fallen leaves have died and started to dry out before they fall from the tree. I think those would have less nutrition.
 
David Williams
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This is used extensively in Australia on fence lines for shade , windbreaks and fodder.... have a quick read of this article

http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/broadacre/forage-fodder/crops/tagasaste

if you have abundant feed at those times of years i cant see why it couldn't be cut and bailed, after a few years it does grow a decent trunk but a vertical knife assembly should do fine..
But seems to tick all the boxes you have suggested , not knowing your location makes it a little difficult , although this plant grows practically anywhere
Also the Bottle tree family (Brachychiton) is used in a similar manner , though i feel would be too labor intensive and couldn't be stored easily but are green year round here ..

http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/44981/The_kurrajong_-_Primefact_16-final.pdf
 
Nicholas Mason
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When doing some research on scything hay fields I read that one of the benefits of using a scythe is that you can cut the small saplings that grow on the sides of hay fields. These saplings supposedly add to the quality of the hay, and help to keep the hay field from slowly getting smaller. I also read once, I wish that I remembered where, that mulberry leaves are good fodder. Supposedly high in protein, and a good fodder. I would research some more before I feed my animals mulberry leaves, but it is something that I am planning on pursuing eventually.
 
Michael Walder
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Have y'all seen this video yet? Super informative!


 
Cj Sloane
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Did a 2 part interview with Nick Ferguson of Homegrown Liberty on this very topic.

http://www.homegrownliberty.com/e0031-fodder-trees-carolyn-sloane-part-1/
 
Travis Johnson
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I use trees to feed my sheep during times of drought like we are having now. They will eat the leaves and smaller branches off a tree in a days time if you do it that way by dragging tress into their pasture. That is a pain with all the gates and such, so I just use my Wallenstein Log Trailer to grab a bunch of branches and haul down a load and pitch them over the fence for them. It takes some time, but adds variety to their diet.

I suppose you could use dried leaves in the winter, but hay bales would work better I think.

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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