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Growing willow for goat feed?  RSS feed

 
Sonia Johnson
Posts: 4
Location: Carson City, NV Zone 5, av. precipitation 9", altitude 4700'
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Has anyone tried growing willow in an aquaponic system for use as goat feed? I'm going to be setting up a system this spring, and that's one thing I'd like to try (with hay prices approaching $20/bale here!) I'm thinking half barrels, with lengths of willow cuttings submerged horizontally so they send up shoots.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Sonia
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Location? (consider adding your location to your profile).

I'm planting tons of Willows and Poplars this year in a "browse block" for my cows & sheep. Last year was terrible for hay but I could still pay $3.50/ small square bale.

I'm not positive it's the best use of your grow bed, though at $20/bale who knows? What are your nitrates looking like or is this a system that's not setup yet? This is an outdoor system? I wonder if a fodder system might be better for you?

I have used my grow bed to strike cuttings.
 
Sonia Johnson
Posts: 4
Location: Carson City, NV Zone 5, av. precipitation 9", altitude 4700'
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Thanks for the reply -- I haven't set up my system yet, but have been wanting to for several years, and reading up on it. Project this spring/summer is to get the system running and build a greenhouse over it before the first frosts hit in Sept/Oct. I will be doing fodder, too -- I did some experiments last year, and just started it up again. Hopefully the greenhouse project will get accomplished and I'll be able to grow year-round.

I just thought of the willow idea today. I have a small stand of brush willow on my property which supplements my feed supply during the summer, and it occurred to me that it might work well in an aquaponics system. I definitely want to give it a try. (Unless someone with experience tells me it's a terrible/impractical idea! )

Thanks for the feedback,
Sonia
 
Marvin Hodges
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Sonia Johnson wrote:Has anyone tried growing willow in an aquaponic system for use as goat feed? I'm going to be setting up a system this spring, and that's one thing I'd like to try (with hay prices approaching $20/bale here!) I'm thinking half barrels, with lengths of willow cuttings submerged horizontally so they send up shoots.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Sonia


You may want to try to get some ramie (Boehmeria nivea), a sturdy sub-tropical plant. Ramie has 24% protein in the leaves (about like alfalfa) and is readily eaten by pigs and cows. It does require more water than NV can supply The U.S. Department of Agriculture cultivated over 3,000 acres in Florida in the mid 20th Century.

A good website to have in a gardener's Favorites list is Feedipedia.org with nutritional values of almost 300 plants.

Al_San_Diego
 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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I think the best use of that limited space would be a plant that likes water even more than willow like a reed where you could get more biomass/cuttings. My cows & sheep will eat common reeds (phragmites) no problem. Cows can eat 30,000 plants world wide, I'd imagine goats would have an even larger number of species to choose from.
 
Renate Howard
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They'd probably eat cattails. My pigs really loved them and I've read cows eat them. Or water cress. Or possibly duck weed, which can also feed fish.

One thing that confuses me about aquaponics systems is that when I raised tropical fish the fry would give off hormones that would suppress their growth. We did 90% water changes daily to get the best growth out of them. If you recycle the water so much, is there anyone looking at whether the growth-suppressing hormones build up in the water, or which plants best break them down?

I've read of crayfish aquaponics systems, tho, and the marmorkrebs (peaceful, self-cloning crayfish) didn't seem to have as much growth-suppression as the fish fry did. They'll also live happily on plant food so you're not killing 10 lbs of wild fish to make the feed to grow 1 lb of "farmed" fish. When you do feed meats to marmorkrebs, they could handle more saturated fat than fish could. In cold water the saturated fat goes too solid for the fish and makes them unhealthy, which means most factory-farmed land animal-based proteins make very poor fish food.
 
Cj Sloane
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Renate Haeckler wrote:
One thing that confuses me about aquaponics systems is that when I raised tropical fish the fry would give off hormones that would suppress their growth. We did 90% water changes daily to get the best growth out of them. If you recycle the water so much, is there anyone looking at whether the growth-suppressing hormones build up in the water, or which plants best break them down?


I haven't read about fry emitting growth-suppressing hormones but I know some fish grow quicker than others. I think Blue Gill grows too slowly for AP and Tilapia is the fastest. Despite this, I have not been able to grow out Tilapia due do cold water issues.
 
Jeremiah Robinson
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Location: Madison, WI
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I can't speak to willow but I know that people grow out barley sprouts in hydroponic systems (basically just water). You put down a 1" layer of barley seed, run water over it slowly, then 7 days later you harvest the sprouts. Pretty efficient fodder system, except you have to have a good amount of barley seed to start.

With regard to growth-limiting hormones, I've never heard of this either. Fish grow as fast in aquaponics as I've seen them grow in the local (continuous flow) hatcheries, though they don't raise tropical fish here in Wisconsin. Could be that this is fish-specific. Did you have this issue with chiclids (like tilapia)?
 
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