tree hay

2019 – we are beginning to harvest tree hay for our sheep ..
So far we are limited by capacity of humans and space with what we can collect – hopefully both these will improve as I recover from my fibromyalgia, and we get to create more shelter.
There is so much bounty around. This is free food, for the labour.
It is also highly beneficial food, and more is being learned about additional benefits all the time.
The advice is to cut, bundle and dry the tree branches in a dark place to keep the most nutrition (otherwise our polytunnels would be a great place to hang the bundles!)
We have found that bundles need to be retied as they shrink.
Tannins in tree browse is an anthelminth – helps to keep worms away, affecting the instar stages of worms in the gut
Certain species are high in mineral – willow and zinc for instance.
We have lot to learn as to what our sheep will eat, what is most pallatible
A few notes
* nettles – leaves are cropped early, then seeds for ourselvs, after this then cropped to dry for tree hay.
* willow – we have a variety of species, some cut to feed green, the goat willow that we have coppiced in previous years is much more lush than older trees. The Viminalis is lush and so productive.
* alder is highly beneficial in our tree systems as it is a powerful nitrogen fixer, but is likely to be less useful for tree hay as it is not meant to be so edible.
* elder – we have started to regenerate our old elder trees, cutting some back really hard and they have just burst forth with masses of material. Elder is not meant to be particularly pallitable but it is certainly productive, and they have eaten it before, lets see what the winter brings.
* ash – a great fodder plant, we have several trees we will need to coppice as they are too close to power lines, so these will be a great source of tree hay in the future. Whilst it is not possible to buy ash because of the die back, we have a number here with seedlings popping up to be rehomed each year.
* aspen – is a tree hay plant livestock are meant to enjoy, we have some, and planting more, it is also so beautiful quivering in the wind.
* poplar – we have some really good big poplar trees that have been recently pollarded, and will be adding more to the hedgerows as they are fast growing, succulent and enjoyed by the sheep.
* hawthorn – whilst you have to be careful of the thorns of any of these plants the sheep love them .. more and more getting added to fencelines as well as fed over the fence through the summer.
* oak – we now have a number of lovely maturing oak trees, as well as new ones in the plantations, so will get more branches over the years to add to the variety in the tree hay.
* hazel
* rowan – such a wonderful berry tree, but we have quite a bit growing so will be able to add some to the tree hay menu
* birch –
* beech –