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Feeding my cows (and other livestock) more non-conventional forage

 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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bee chicken fungi solar trees
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So, it's not just trees I'm experimenting with. I've got lots of phragmites around the pond, and I did feed it to the cows last year. This year I'm making more of an effort to reduce my feed bill.

As with the trees, getting the fodder to the livestock is the tricky part. My first attempt was this:


It worked OK but was a little top heavy dragging/rolling it to the cows.

My next attempt was to cut them into smaller pieces and that was better. My next step will be filling up 5 gallon buckets which should be much easier to dump into their feeder. Either way, they really enjoyed it:
 
Cj Sloane
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Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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bee chicken fungi solar trees
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Other things I have fed my cows:
Apples
Comfrey
stinging nettle (wilted)

Here's a good quote from Bill Mollison:

So you have [these] strategies, then, with these cattle and deer and goats and sheep.

1: instead of just relying on annual pastures, have areas of permanent, high-mineral mobilization herbs throughout all your pastures-- dandelion, chicory, comfrey.
2: Have evergreens, standing, high-nutrition tree crop within forage range that the cattle will coppice.
3: Have high-sugar summer pods that will carry cattle through the semi-arid seasons. This group is critically important to range capacity.
4: Also, you must have a winter high carbohydrate source--large nuts and acorns.
5: These are the truly perennial components--the fruit of trees that stand in pasture.


I have fed the cows & sheep conifers but I don't like to do it too close to slaughter as I suspect it flavors the meat in a bad way. A friend's husband killed a moose out of season and she said it tasted like turpentine - probably from eating pine.

I'm working on the others. More apple trees and honey locusts went in this year. I'm trying to make a hedgerow with hazelnuts but it's slow going. I didn't realize I could start more by taking cuttings so I'll try that next winter.
 
J D Horn
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Cows love bamboo!

 
Cj Sloane
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Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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bee chicken fungi solar trees
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I do have plans to feed them bamboo, I forgot to put that on my list!

I planted 3 varieties but they are surprisingly slow growing. I planted the clumping kind. If it doesn't take off I may try the running type & maroon it on an island in my pond.
 
Cj Sloane
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Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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bee chicken fungi solar trees
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Further progress on feeding phragmites. I had to clear out the reeds from behind the blueberries before they ripen:


Chopping with pruners was way to slow and giving me a blister. I read that 3rd world people use a machete on a chopping block to make some fodder more palatable for their cattle but tend to lose fingers that way. Some NGOs came up with a safer device that looked a lot to me like a paper cutter so I tried that. It was slower than I'd hoped for but not bad while listening to music or a podcast on a nice day:


Today I finally tried the chipper shredder. On the left it went thru the chipper and on the right the leaf shredder. I don't think the cows cared either way:

This would be perfect if the shredder was right at the collection point but there is a major draw back - I can't start it! Only Dennis can start it and that's a drag.

There is another draw back. I have plenty but how do I harvest it, with a boat? "Why not from the land?" you ask? Because there's a fence along that edge.


Easy to get to during drought years or maybe I should wait till August and the pond level should drop more.


The cows love it but I'm still looking for a reliable breakdown of the nutrition content.

 
Cj Sloane
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Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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The latest experiment: grape leaves.


I can't believe Anna even ate those unripe fox grapes (you can see them at the side of her mouth)!

This is traditional in other parts of the world. They even dry it for winter feed. I have sooooooo many wild grapes it's not even funny.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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