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Winter cow feed - apples?

 
Oystein Skjaeveland
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Hello. I'm new to this forum. We have a small farm in Norway (northern Europe), with three jersey cows and some hens. With this we produce Norway's first organic ice cream (www.isrosa.no). We have been at the farm four years, many things are still to be planned and done, and permaculture is an important inspiration. Climate: on the south-west coast, fairly mild winters (for Norway), possible frost and snow from November to April, but can also be frost-free this period. Much rain.
Now for the first question: For the cows it is common here to grow root crops like swedes (Brassica napus), turnip (brassica rapa) and sugar-beet  (?) (beta vulgaris). The idea with these is to substitute bought grains (in part, at least), and so make us more self sufficient. They are all annuals, and I am wondering what perennial alternatives we might have? There are some winter apples here, a variety that stores for many months (Bramley). And the cows sure like apples, but do anyone know how the nutritional value is compared to the roots I mentioned? Or have anyone other perennials to recommend?
 
tel jetson
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I don't know much nutritional information about apples off the top of my head.  probably less protein than grain.

one thing to be aware of is that cows can choke on apples.  might be prudent to break them up somehow before you feed them.  seems like feeding something high in sugar like that could make even sweeter milk.  sounds delicious.
 
paul wheaton
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I think winter keeper apples is a smart thing. 

Good ole hay is also good. 

I wouldn't want to do too much with grain. 

sepp holzer is really good at growing things for his animals to self harvest - and he feeds his ruminants hay over the winter.

 
Emil Spoerri
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If I remember correctly, the pulp from cider manufacturing is a better feed than apples, as apples make for runny cow poop.  Just don't overfeed them and there shouldn't be a problem. Just make sure your cows are getting enough protein if they are in milk.

Sunchokes should make good feed.

If you really want to get away from grain, I think haylage is the way to go.

I met a guy who said he milked his cows through the winter feeding nothing but hay. He had milking shorthorns though...
 
paul wheaton
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If cattle are eating sunchokes, I would very much like to hear more about that.
 
tel jetson
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persimmons (both Diospyros kaki and D. virginiana, and maybe even D. lotus) should make good winter food.  I would recommend honey locust for pods, but I don't think they would ripen in Norway.

try this website for nutrition information of a whole lot of crops.  not great for livestock use, but it should allow you to compare different options reasonably well, though not quickly.
 
Emil Spoerri
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doubtful persimmons would ripen as well. How about those crab apples that hang on the tree through most of the winter? Or perhaps medlars?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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A family friend had cattle that self-harvested almonds, fruit and all. Similar to other trees mentioned, it might not be climate-appropriate.

I've read that both cattle and chickens can get some of their nutrition from acorns.

Are there hazelnut cultivars that would produce appropriate feed in your climate?

Linum perenne might be worth looking into if you can charge a premium for higher omega-3 content, and if you are willing to cook the seeds to reduce the cyanide content.
 
Oystein Skjaeveland
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Thanks for all the input. Hay is the preferred winter feed in any case. This year we have also harvested some ash leaves for feeding through the winter. The ceiling of the barn is covered in it and it smells wonderful!
But the main focus of my question was to try to find something that could be used to substitute for the more concentrated food that are annuals, commonly root crops and grain mixtures. Apples would be large and easy to harvest. The Linum would be more difficult to harvest in quantity. And some of the other trees mentioned here won't give mature fruit in our climate, I'm afraid. But hazelnuts would, the wild variety is all over the place, and I have cultivated varieties on the wish list in any case. When I get around to it.... But I think the nuts would be more for human than animal consumption?

Self-feeding would be even better, of course. But the trouble with that is that the ground is often too wet from October till May, so too much cow trampling would damage the field and turf to much.

Thanks a lot for all input, and more is welcome!
 
tel jetson
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I don't know if cattle can eat it, but I cut and dried  black locust branches this year for my goats.  sounds similar to what you've done with ash.  the black locust leaves in the loft make the barn smell really nice.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Øystein S. wrote:hazelnuts would [produce], the wild variety is all over the place, and I have cultivated varieties on the wish list in any case. When I get around to it.... But I think the nuts would be more for human than animal consumption?

Self-feeding would be even better, of course. But the trouble with that is that the ground is often too wet from October till May, so too much cow trampling would damage the field and turf to much.


If the wild variety isn't commonly used for human food, or can be grown more abundantly than there is a market for, perhaps planting hedges of it along your farm roads would work. Cows might, then, be able to self-harvest and only trample the road.

Or if you sell some nuts for human consumption (maybe grind them and blend with cacao to swirl into the ice cream...), presumably some fraction of your production wouldn't be fit for sale, and could be retained as feed.

Another option, since it is so wet there: you might dig some earthworks for drainage and retention of water, and grow duckweed in them. Some varieties can withstand low temperatures if part of the system has deep water, and dried duckweed is apparently very good animal feed.
 
                    
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Emile Spore wrote:
If I remember correctly, the pulp from cider manufacturing is a better feed than apples, as apples make for runny cow poop. 


yes, and if the pulp is fermented with beer or wine yeast, and then dried to eliminate the alcohol and make a stable product to store, it becomes richer in protein and lower in simple sugars -- better for most ruminants.
 
Brice Moss
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That reminds me granpa used to air dry the pulp on burlaps and mix it with the "sweet feed" for the milk goats, but it was only a small part of the final mix
 
Kevin MacBearach
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I have two Jerseys on two acres. We have tons of wild hazelnut trees growing along the sides of the pastures and some in the middle as well. This summer will be the first for us on this property and I'm looking forward to see how the cows respond to the nut trees. The hazelnuts do very well with coppicing so I could make much fuller hedges of these trees in the future, if the cows like them.
 
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