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So my dad had this idea for reduction in hay cost and winter forage. Why can't we cut tree branches and dry them like hay? I originally kind of scoffed at the idea because I figured if it was possible, everyone would be doing it, and when I look it up on the internet I found only a few hits on it, but apparently tree hay is a thing, although I can't find much on how it's done or whether it is a viable option. Basically the gest is you either cut small branches or strip the leaves off when they are green, dry them, and store it somehow. Not really sure on the details yet. My concerns would be what kind of nutrition content remains in the leaves when cut? Would it be able to replace hay entirely? What kind of trees would this not be appropriate with? And most importantly, I feel like there has to be a catch, or everyone would be doing this. What do you think?
 

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I've done it with black walnut leaves. If you cut them while still green and dry them, they stay green. The goats still loved them after being dried.

Don't try saving any fruit tree branches though, because if they turn brown they release a poisonous substance to goats.

I think this would be a good idea to try!
 

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This is very old, and has an old name which I can't remember at the moment. It is in one of the Ruth Goodman Peter Ginn projects. I'll see if I can't dig this up tonight. We own all of their "... Farm" series-es, but there are several.

It does work, and if I could give you the proper name for the practice, I'm certain you could find out more info.
 

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This is very old, and has an old name which I can't remember at the moment. It is in one of the Ruth Goodman Peter Ginn projects. I'll see if I can't dig this up tonight. We own all of their "... Farm" series-es, but there are several.

It does work, and if I could give you the proper name for the practice, I'm certain you could find out more info.
Please tell! I love those series by the way.
 

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Please tell! I love those series by the way.
Oh, I knew I loved you!

I'll do my best. There is SO much info in them, I don't always remember what I saw where... I'll try!
 

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It's called pollarding and has been done in England for thousands of years.
Ready for information overload? I've got my tree list prepared and a few months studying behind me lol.
I knew you would beat me with the answer. Lol I researched it. I don't think I'll be doing it. Missing a pair of vestibular nerves, so I need to stay on ground.:)
 

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We all know that goats really aren't meant to eat hay. What you maybe don't know is that every English livestock animal ate trees, even rabbits and chickens.
Pollarding is a way to grow pasture for summer and trees for winter in the same space, running the animals under the pollards. Coppacing is a more intense system allowing more trees per area and more tree hay per acre.
Coppacing means working on the ground. I plan to do something in between, collarding lol.
 

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My trees will be cut at 3 feet, about waist high.

Now, about those trees. This list came about after a lot of research. All are safe for all animals and known to coppice well.

100 Russian Mulberries
100 Basket Willows
100 Big Leaf Maple
100 thornless Honey Locust
50 Hybrid Poplar
25 Linden (basswood)
25 Tulip Tree
25 Oregon Ash
 

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Wow, thanks for all that information @goathiker. This is really interesting to me and I see you have tulip tree on your list. By that do you mean tulip poplar? That is actually the tree I was thinking of trying this with.
 

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Yes, it was called that before they changed it's classification. It's now a member of the mongolia family.
So, how then?

Pick trees that are less than 5 years old and 3" thick. These will heal and have more vigorous regrowth than older trees.
For coppice cut straight across 3 to 6 inches from the ground. Colard 3 feet or so from the ground. Pollard 6 to 8 feet from the ground. Branches are cut @ 8 inches long and you may leave 2 or 4. Never unbalance the tree.
Excess and lower branches are cut flush with the trunk.

Cut off trees during the dormant stage, February or March is good in cold climates. January or February where warmer. If you wait until the sap is rising the tree may bleed to death.

In the spring you should see a bunch of branches start growing right up out of the bark collar, the sides of the tree, and the base. Around the end of July 5 years later cut all these off and start over. The collar and the growth buds are delicate and shouldn't be injured so cut them about an inch above where they come out of the tree.
 

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This is very old, and has an old name which I can't remember at the moment.
The old Swedish word is hamla, and you can see for a long time where the trees have been "hamled". There are descriptions of children and grandmas climbing the trees, letting the twigs/leaves fall down on blankets, these being handled by people on the ground.
I feel like there has to be a catch, or everyone would be doing this.
That catch (thanks for the word!) is that it takes a lot of work, and more room for storing than hay.

It also takes much knowledge to "hamle" a tree so that it gives leaves also the following years.
Interesting but seems like a lot of work.
Indeed!

As for kinds of trees, I do think old people here chose all kinds of non-toxic trees, wild and tame. My daddy showed me how to make bundles to put indoors for drying (standing up for best drying result), and the goats just loved this in winter! If you are not afraid of work, you can replace much hay with leaves.

Those of you who give it a try, do share photos of your goats eating these delicious treats during winter! :)
 

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100 Russian Mulberries
This is the most important tree, bred over centuries to be coppiced for silk worms. In China they cut it off as often as every 3 months. This one will be cut once a year in May. By the time fall comes it will be regrown again and finish a normal cycle.
The leaves are at 20 to 24% protein, high in vitamins and minerals, and have shown good results in feed tests. They increase growth and weight gain in all tests.

100 Basket Willows
These also are bred to be coppiced. They are also supple and strong. Plus if you mess up and kill one you just stick a branch from another in the ground and a new one grows.
These will be cut every other year. The livestock will eat the greenery and the wood will be used for wattle fencing.

100 Big Leaf Maple
These are very useful. 50 will be orchard planted and maintained as multistem tall shrubs. The fall leaves will be raked and used for bedding. 25 will be planted in the under story of the pine forest to improve the ground, these will be coppiced for fence hurdles as well. The remaining 25 will be growing firewood on long rotations.

100 thornless Honey Locust
Very dense hardwood. 30 year fence posts and awesome firewood. 50 for each thing. Planted among the other trees they also help fix nitrogen.
50 Hybrid Poplar
Tree hay on 2 year cycles.

25 Linden (basswood)
These will be an experimental species for my area. Tree hay if they can handle it.

25 Tulip Tree
Firewood

25 Oregon Ash
Tree hay

So, what does a year look like?
May, Mulberries 100 trees~ 4 per day
June, Willows 50 per year~ 2 per day
July, Poplar hybrids 50 per year~ 2 per day (I'll clone 50 more) .
July, Linden 12 per year~ 1per day
August, Ash 5 will be sentinels so 10 per year no biggie.
So far pretty quick days and since their isn't any real drying to do you're done with it the day you cut.

Cut tree with long handled bypass pruners, tie tightly into a bundle, throw into truck, take bundles to well ventilated storage area, tie 2 bundles at the base, throw over rack...done.

I know a guy working 6000 trees and feeding 32 Boer goats 350 lbs of tree hay a day year round. It takes him about 4 hours daily during harvest season.
 

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100 Russian Mulberries
This is the most important tree, bred over centuries to be coppiced for silk worms. In China they cut it off as often as every 3 months. This one will be cut once a year in May. By the time fall comes it will be regrown again and finish a normal cycle.
The leaves are at 20 to 24% protein, high in vitamins and minerals, and have shown good results in feed tests. They increase growth and weight gain in all tests.

100 Basket Willows
These also are bred to be coppiced. They are also supple and strong. Plus if you mess up and kill one you just stick a branch from another in the ground and a new one grows.
These will be cut every other year. The livestock will eat the greenery and the wood will be used for wattle fencing.

100 Big Leaf Maple
These are very useful. 50 will be orchard planted and maintained as multistem tall shrubs. The fall leaves will be raked and used for bedding. 25 will be planted in the under story of the pine forest to improve the ground, these will be coppiced for fence hurdles as well. The remaining 25 will be growing firewood on long rotations.

100 thornless Honey Locust
Very dense hardwood. 30 year fence posts and awesome firewood. 50 for each thing. Planted among the other trees they also help fix nitrogen.
50 Hybrid Poplar
Tree hay on 2 year cycles.

25 Linden (basswood)
These will be an experimental species for my area. Tree hay if they can handle it.

25 Tulip Tree
Firewood

25 Oregon Ash
Tree hay

So, what does a year look like?
May, Mulberries 100 trees~ 4 per day
June, Willows 50 per year~ 2 per day
July, Poplar hybrids 50 per year~ 2 per day (I'll clone 50 more) .
July, Linden 12 per year~ 1per day
August, Ash 5 will be sentinels so 10 per year no biggie.
So far pretty quick days and since their isn't any real drying to do you're done with it the day you cut.

Cut tree with long handled bypass pruners, tie tightly into a bundle, throw into truck, take bundles to well ventilated storage area, tie 2 bundles at the base, throw over rack...done.

I know a guy working 6000 trees and feeding 32 Boer goats 350 lbs of tree hay a day year round. It takes him about 4 hours daily during harvest season.
That is a really good plan! How much acreage are you needing for this?
 
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