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Using tree leaves as animal fodder

 
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Location: Blythewood, SC
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A friend and I are looking into a animal feed business of pelletizing tree leaves and selling them. We're thinking mulberry, locus, willow, maybe moringa as they coppice well and are leaves that animals like to browse. I'm thinking this would mainly be a nutritional supplement. We just began our research and sending feelers out to see what the demand is. A internet search didn't reveal anything for any businesses doing this. Anyone familiar with pelletizing leaves? Any advice from the animal experts out there?
 
pollinator
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"The Linden tree (Tilia sp.) , also known as Basswood, Honey-Tree, Bee Tree or Lime Tree, is a common deciduous tree found throughout the northern hemisphere.  It’s easily identified by its utterly gigantic heart-shaped leaves (6-8 inches across) and intensely fragrant flowers. Adult trees have fissured bark, and can reach 6 feet in diameter.  All parts of the plant are edible including the leaves, flowers, seeds, sap and bark."
From this website: practicalselfreliance.com
I have only read the little snippet from the website, it's just the first thing that came up when I searched "edible linden" since I remembered reading that linden leaves are edible.
 
pollinator
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Chinese elm leaves are edible to humans as well, so likely no toxicity issues for other animals.
 
I imagine the same machine that makes feed pellets or pellet fireplace pellets would work for dry leaves, not sure about fresh, wet leaves though.
 
gardener
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The folks as Tikkun Farm feed their Alpaca autumn leaves.
Consistent nutritional value information might be hard generate, if it's important.
If you liquify the green leaves by blending them down, you could dry them out into flakes or powder.
Low temperature and no direct sunlight to maintain nutrients.
Maybe mix  with autumn leaves to help dry it out and add bulk,minerals and texture.
Biochar is another admixture that could add value.
Willow, mulberry, maples or box elder,sunflower or j choke stalks, apple or pear, morninga, are all nutritious possibilities.

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Cherry leaves are toxic, at least to chickens.
Buckeyes are deadly.
 
pollinator
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Our pigs and sheep graze Paulownia, Hazel, Elderberry, Mulberry, Willow, Acacia, Medlar, Apple, Wild Plum and Wild Peach trees whenever they can reach them.  We intentionally harvest Paulownia, Mulberry, Hazel and Willow leaves in Autumn (from the ground) to feed the sheep fresh and also to dry and add to our hayage stock.
 
pollinator
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Oh my goodness - what an interesting idea! I know that a neighbor of mine has been experimenting with what she calls "tree hay" which is basically just cutting and baling branches with green leaves during the summer and allowing them to dry for winter fodder. This is the first time she's done it, so time will tell how well it works but pelletizing the leaves... that's a very interesting idea. Would work great for goats and other browsing animals, I would think.
 
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Black locust leaves are supposedly deadly toxic to equines so I would avoid that one. Goats will browse on it and apparently it prevents worms, but the high tannins are too much for horses.
 
master pollinator
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Tree lucerne, luceana and other nitrogen producers, seem like good candidates. I don't think the issue will be how to pelletize, but instead complications during harvest, since there are going to be a little sticks along with the leaves. Grazing animals are quite good at sorting out the portions that they prefer.

Some trees have quite edible leaves at certain times, but when they are stressed they produce foul-tasting compounds, to prevent grazing. So it would be important to regularly test, before harvesting. Some things with tannins are okay as a certain percentage of the diet. Cattle in Australia have been known to shed hair when fed too much tree lucerne.

I think some of the alfalfa and other pellets could benefit from having tree leaves as an admixture, as a way of ensuring more complete nutrition.

When large amounts of corn or grasses are made into silage, tree leaves could be incorporated, so long as they don't throw the sugar content too far out of whack. Some tree leaves don't contain enough sugar on their own to be stored as silage, but again as an admixture we would have the benefit of any micronutrients, without overdosing. And this should take care of any palatability issues.
 
pollinator
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Lots of good points here indicating that certain leaf mixes should be reserved for certain animals, or just avoided all together.

I had catalpa trees once, they provided hundreds and hundreds of pounds of food for my goats when they dropped leaves.  Elm leaves are popular with the entire farm, and the seeds are edible green or dried.  Mulberry is another obvious one, along with willow.  I don't know anything that won't eat willow.

If you had a line on fruit tree trimmings you'd be set.  Everything from rodents to rabbits to goats to horses love fruit tree stuffs, especially apple.  Cherry has some controversy shrouding it; what I've 'more officially' read is that the actual species of wild cherry (Prunus serotina) can have a leaf toxicity if the leaves are consumed while WILTED; fresh or dried is okay.  That seems to have been turned into "cherry leaves are toxic".  I only know what I've read, so I would do more research.  Or just leave it out all together since 'common knowledge' now says cherry leaves are deadly.  

The only thing I'd be concerned with, as a consumer, is where were these leaves sourced from and how much herbicide and pesticide and fungicide has been sprayed on them?  Are they from a city where the plants are inundated with pollution and air-borne debris?  Those are things that matter to me.  But I also probably wouldn't buy any pelleted feed for any reason, so my input on that might not be well placed
 
pollinator
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Fabulous idea.

Hibiscus leaves, rose of Sharon, another good option. They handle coppicing well too.

Some vines may fit the bill too: grape family, kudzu both have edible leaves. Honeysuckle?
 
Dale Hodgins
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Tree forages are like a vitamin and mineral pill, often with protein, for grazing animals.

 Some, like goats seem to have no trouble consuming a vast variety of leaves that may contain various toxins.

 Other animals, like pigs, horses and other non ruminants, can be poisoned by the same things that goats are wolfing down.

There are methods of dealing with cyanide and other toxins or irritants. Chopping and drying gets rid of most cyanide in leaves and tubers.
........
I don't think the material needs to be pelletized. It could be stirred into or  sprinkled onto other feeds. The material could be packed up like flour. Probably not something you'd want to dump on coarse dry feed, but something that would mix quite well with damp feed whether it be swill, silage or dampened grains.

By going for flakes or powder, anyone with suitable trees can make their own supplement.

This would allow the harvesting of tree forages during periods of low stress, when the anti feeding properties are at their lowest. Suppose you harvest a whole bunch, because it's also a good firewood tree. Do it when the tree is actively growing, rather than waiting for drought, when those compounds will be more concentrated.

I really think that putting it into silage makes the most sense, for those growing just their own supply. It wouldn't need to be dried and the process gets rid of most toxic properties.
 
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