Fodder tree management

Discussion in 'Breeding, Raising, Feeding and Caring for Animals' started by Mike_E_from_NZ, Jun 23, 2011.

  1. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Does anyone here have experience growing fodder trees for cattle? I am thinking willows and tree lucerne, in particular, but any others that come to mind will be welcome suggestions.

    I now live in the Far North of NZ, so we are warm temperate, with the more hopeful of us pretending we are subtropical.

    My questions:
    1. To be useful to me I would like to be able to graze the trees as part of a regular system. It doesn't matter if it is once a year, but it does need to be every year. Can I do this?
    2. Me doing the cutting of the fodder and feeding out just doesn't work for me. The animals (cattle) need to be able to do their own pruning. Will this damage the trees beyond repair?
    3. Timing: I understanding that coppicing should occur when there are no leaves on the trees. It follows that this would be the least destructive time for animals to be eating the trees. But seriously, what self respecting cow would chomp away at only wood. Surely the leaves would be the sweetest stuff?
    4. Can the cattle eat everything on the tree and it still grow back? If I let the tree get high then the cattle will only get a portion of the food. Some of the books I have read quote a DM per hectare figure for fodder production of trees. But if the cows can only eat 10% of it (being the stuff they can reach) then that DM figure starts to look pretty anemic
    5. Can I coppice the tree at 0.5 metres, for example, and let the animals have at the new growth each year?.

    I'd sure appreciate any input.
     
  2. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    onya Mike
    great place to grow fodder trees
    willows love to be coppiced
    seed fall is the ultimate harvesting system
    i have grown thousands over the last 20 years ,i like oaks gleditsia ,robinia,willows etc
    one book mentions Trevor Lennard at TePuKi with regard to honey locust
    read; Tree crops a permanent agriculture it is the bible on the topic
    there may be some pics on my site ; newenglandpermaculture.com.au
     
  3. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    I have run across that book several times and have had every intention of reading it 'some day'. Well, I guess today is 'some day'.

    Thanks Andrew
     
  4. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    I am now several chapters into the book and I cannot believe I left it so long to read. Already my ideas have been expanded far beyond my original thinking. Thanks again Andrew.
     
  5. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    you are in exactly the right climate
     
  6. Mirrabooka

    Mirrabooka Junior Member

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    Grass in fodder tree zone

    I am establishing a fodder tree zone with chestnuts, oaks, tagasaste, etc in Southern Victoria.

    I needed to fence the area off from the cows and sheep, to protect tree seedlings, now the grass is abundant.

    What livestock is not programmed to knock down tree guards and eat saplings? How do I protect the mass tree planting?
     
  7. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Are they in strips? Light electric fence?
     
  8. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    Sick merino lambs! cheap to buy some will die
    or poultry!
     
  9. void_genesis

    void_genesis Junior Member

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    I'm in the subtropics planting lots of fodder trees. I have found my pastures become less competitive as the grass goes ungrazed for a year or more. The grasses get choked with dead growth and gradually weaken. I think this mimics how overgrown pastures will naturally get taken over by self sown trees even without intervention. It seems like nothing is happening to begin when the trees are just establishing, but the grass actually needs to be grazed to retain its advantage over the trees. So my suggestion is to mimic nature and avoid making unnecessary work for yourself. Better to use the time/energy to plant more trees than fuss over the ones already planted.

    I have planted my cuttings and seedlings through this grass without clearing out spaces and the trees are gradually making progress. Once they pop their head above the pasture they seem to take off more. Interestingly only those planted in a few spots with really short healthy grass have suffered from grazing by hares/roos or died out during our recent drought, so even though the deeper grass slowed the fodder trees down a bit it also protected them.
    Once more of the fodder trees are above the grass and growing faster I am planning on giving them each a handful of concentrated fertilised like blood and bone- just enough to give them more of an advantage against the pasture grasses. Giving the legumes some phosphorous and trace elements should help them start pulling in nitrogen.
     
  10. Mirrabooka

    Mirrabooka Junior Member

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    Fodder trees ('food foddist'? and grass)

    Thanks void,
    Judging by the progress the trees to date are actually making, my own observations suggest you are correct. The only addition from my experience here is to use the Global Land Repair pink tree guard (there is a good youtube the company has posted), and as they recommend, surrounding the seedling with a mound of wood chip mulch, to feed the fungi. In south east Australia, in weather like the next few days, the grass fire risk does play on my mind though....
     
  11. void_genesis

    void_genesis Junior Member

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    My feeling is that the time/energy/money spent improving the survival or growth rate on one tree is better spent on propagating another ten trees. The only plants I fuss over in terms of improving the soil, watering, staking, fertilising, protecting from the elements and animals are fruit trees that cost $20-50 a pop.

    Fodder shrubs should be things I can grow from seed or cuttings myself that cost only a few cents each maximum. The time taken to stick the thing in the right spot in the ground is more valuable than the plant itself. Funnily enough most trees use the same strategy to propagate themselves- they fling thousands of seeds around the environment on the off chance that a few of them grow.
     
  12. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Judging by both your posts, one should always endeavour to create the best conditions one can, based on what's available, space to cover and time available.

    Grass is the antithesis of a tree system, having evolved to out-compete, out-burn and basically dominate trees back to grassland. It's interesting the differing systems in play and usually to achieve the same end. One of my arboricultural books has a great picture of soil profiles in tree-dominant and grass-dominant, indicating why trees fail to thrive in grass-dominant due to the huge impact of grass roots.

    Darren Doherty has changed his system of planting, from plowing the grass out over keyline rips to a combination of high-value compost and cheap Council greenwaste over the same rips, waiting until the grass dies and planting into that. Void is planting the hardiest of pioneers to outcompete the grass where time isn't of the essence and he can cover large areas to create new tree-dominant areas without the fossil-fueled expensive mulch. If I had woodchip mulch coming out of my ears, I wouldn't plant into anything else. I'd spread and wait for the competition to die out. In my smaller system, I'm trailing manual removal of the very upper soil profile with the grass in it and planting a tree surrounded by less dominant native grasses into a newly-dug hole. 3-5 minutes per planting hole but I'm only planting particular trees in the thirty to forties, not hundreds. Most foresters are planting trees directly into glyphosphate-burned circles and maintaining that to allow the structural and feeder roots to develop without competition.

    Leaving the grass high does leave one open to a grassfire (which is evolved to destroy trees) but you would always be fingers crossed on that one and it may be very unlikely. You'd have the added benefit of protected (shade and erosion) soil, reduced transpiration from winds, less-actively growing grass clumps and less pressure from herbivores as Void has noted.
     
  13. void_genesis

    void_genesis Junior Member

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    I'm not convinced that grass is as powerful as you think. From what I know of ecology the great grassland plains of Africa only look that way because of all the herbivores munching on them. The elephants even go out of their way to rip up thorny acacia trees, even though they prefer to eat grass. Even Australia was meant to look like a tree studded lawn for hundreds of kilometers before 1770 due to the consistent herbivore pressure and light burning.

    I have noticed a similar pattern in my place. Where the cows get into graze every few months the grass is dense and vigorous right down to ground level. The cows make short work of any tree seedlings and even non-grassy weeds have a hard time as well apart from a very small number of unpalatable species (that get swamped by the low grass anyway, only appearing in bare spots).

    By contrast the areas that the cows have been off for over a year the grass looks very different. The sward is composed of about 50% dead grass, and you can push it aside quite easily. It is composting down, and the non-grassy plants have an easier time to establish. I have also found that the more aggressive a grass is then the more dependent it is on reliable sunlight. Even the slightest shade will tip the balance against it. I suspect when my fodder shrubs get up to shoulder height the remaining grasses will shift from aggressive kikuyu and setaria into slower growing (and more palatable) panicums.

    Luckily we are in an area that has never had any bushfires. If you were working in a place with this issue then it changes everything. I often wonder how those areas would behave during a heatwave if we didn't have so many eucalypts and other plants designed to burst into flame. Before Aboriginal settlement the central deserts where meant to be seasonally dry rainforest down to Alice Springs.

    Interestingly I have grown the same "pioneer" fodder species buried in my pasture to varying degress in well mulched gardens with no weed pressure and I don't think I can see a huge difference in growth rate. The bigger factor is timing in planting the seeds and cuttings during a long enough damp spell (usually autumn here) to get them established. After that they seem to just sit and wait for more rain to grow. Now that the rain is returning they are growing as fast as any I have seen in ideal conditions. And ultimately speed of growth isn't my top priority anyway. Minimising time per plant to establish is the main goal....they will all grow enough sooner or later.

    One possible counter argument along these lines to the idea that grass must be restrained to establish trees: could it be that the overgrown grass, with all the half dead material, is pretty much as good as machine made/wheel barrowed mulch for producing an environment rich in fungal hyphae to help delivery water to the freshly transplanted plants during their most vulnerable phase of establishment?
     
  14. Mirrabooka

    Mirrabooka Junior Member

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    The other herbivore my fodder forest has been decimated by is the snail and slug variety. Fortunately the tree guard deployment allowed highly restricted EDTA snail pellet deployment within the tree guard. As Nick Huggins, permaculture designer at GLR points out, labour input, including my own in my paddock, is the most costly input in tree establishment, so a few dollars to protect my time/labour input via tree guard, wheel barrow of mulch, and a few snail pellets makes sense
     
  15. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    And I've found after planting trees professionally for a few years, we always had superior results for non-pioneers (and much reduced nitrogen-fixers due to the "maintenance" issue) in mulched areas with less competition. This may be a differing planting style than yours, direct planting of climax species at the beginning of the game, species that would never appear or establish or thrive in long grass. Perhaps species that would only thrive in a rich rainforest, with a heavily fungally-dominated soil? Mulching wide and heavily with wood mulch may fool that species into thinking things are good and worth putting effort into? Plus a rich, thick humus is usually very moist for long periods of time and alive with fauna. Or without the majority legumes, the wood mulch breaking down supplies more nitrogen for the slower-growing species?

    Plus, grass is a heavy transpirer, wouldn't a sensitive climax species struggle with that? Your anecdotal evidence is based on a hardy pioneer, perhaps it can compete just fine in a heavy pressure environment and can't grow any faster than it already does?

    Anyway, it's a commonly-stated theory that grass pressure isn't great for trees in the entire arboricultural industry and perhaps we could narrow it down to which species. Albizia lebbeck, for example, is a recommended fodder tree because it will allow grass to grow right to the trunk, thereby increasing pasture availability.

    I recommend the "How to Grow a Planet" BBC series, particularly Episode 3 and the rise of grass versus the trees.
     
  16. void_genesis

    void_genesis Junior Member

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    I guess the over-arching principle is to spend your energy and time as wisely as possible to get your trees established. If buying an expensive tubestock, digging a hole, watering and applying mulch and tree guard are going to end in a dead transplant because snails ate it then it is wise to add on the last step to make use of the previous four steps. That said how do you know the snails arent a problem because they like living in the tree guard? Maybe survival to effort ratio would be better without the guard as well.

    My experiments are already giving me about 70-80% transplant success putting bare rooted cuttings or seeds directly into pasture, provided I wait until we have a spell of rain. Given all the plants are being propagated from my own material for almost no cost I think in this situation it makes more sense to spend extra time/energy going back to replant the 20-30% of the positions that didn't establish first time. Just the time saving involved in not having to dig a proper hole is enormous- I just make a 20-25cm deep crack in the pasture and push the cutting in and then stomp the dirt back on. It literally takes me twice as long to measure where I should plant the thing than to actually put it in.

    The plants I have been working with so far are:
    Montanoa bipinnatifida (bare root cuttings)
    Leucaena (direct seed, growing but very slowly....may need inoculant though wild plants grow nearby, few transplanted seedlings are the same)
    Inga edulis (direct seed and those germinated to 10 cm in a mass pot gave similar results)
    Malvaviscus arborea (bare rooted cuttings gave higher strike rates than those prerooted in a pot- probably hard to transplant shock a naked stick)
    Erythrina variegata (just put the first lot in at the end of our drought in dryish soil during drizzly weather, so time will tell, though the place I got them from had issues with prunings left on the ground growing into new trees, so I like my odds)

    I have also germinated masses of seed of:
    Morus alba/rubra/nigra (some USA nurseries stock bulk seed packets....will try direct cuttings in late winter from mature trees in the area)
    Moringa oleifera (bulk seed on ebay from a place in western Australia had very good germination- most expensive at about 60 cents a seed)
    Albizzia lebbeck (our local trees provided a bucket of seed for an hours work)
    Erythrina crista galli/fusca/vespertillo/etc.......small numbers for a variety trial
    These will all go out once the soil is damp, probably in March if we get our expected rain. Once the seedlings are about 5-10cm high I put them in brighter light and let them wilt slightly between waterings to start hardening them off before transplant.

    These slightly more valuable seedlings will probably be treated a little better than material I can propagate from my own stock. Ill probably clear a 20 cm spot in the grass and might water them once. The initial numbers will be smaller (around 10-50 each) compared to the roughly planted own propagated stock (typically 100-200 each so far, with many hundreds to go over the years ahead).

    I'm tracking down a good source of fat truncheon cuttings from Erythrina crista-galli as well (shorter, no spines and evergreen so may be superior to E. variegata).

    I think a big issue is what people mean by "superior results". I'm lucky to be in a position where I don't care if it takes six weeks or six years for the plants to get to a useable height (about 1-2 m before I can let the cows graze them). As long as the transplants take then they are on their way to that point eventually. I also know from experience that plants that grow slowly seem to be tougher in the long run. Racing away in the beginning seems to set up a flimsy foundation. These plants need to take being grazed until they are defoliated and have cows bouncing off them, and then cut back to under 1 m on an annual basis. They better get used to hard living!
     
  17. Mirrabooka

    Mirrabooka Junior Member

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    Fodder trees and energy

    the fodder trees I am planting are chestnuts and oak trees for a pig fodder system in a decade or so, combined with planned coppicing of some of the chestnut for firewood, leaf drop to enhance soil, fire retardant timber stand, and wind break. I have also incorporated providence Blackwood seed home germinated for chop and drop, nitrogen fixing, firewood, fine furniture timber etc. The steep slope location is south facing, so a substantially deciduous system made sense. I grow all from seed, the chestnuts take months of cold stratification in the fridge, all are planted straight into their final destination because they have wonderful drought resistant tap root systems, apparently.

    Chestnuts and acorns are beloved of the local rats (the first experiment entailed a wire mesh and fresh cow manure cover, a google bum steer recommendation,which the rats found entertaining) which the tree guard/weed mat/mulch metre circle completely defeated.

    The cows ignored the single electrified white tape (another google bum steer)and demolished the lot. It surprised me that cows have a taste for pink plastic fluted tree guard. Six strand barbed wire with hot wire offset required to finally keep the cows out- tried less strands, but cows returned and again demolished and ate the resuscitated plantings and guards.

    Next herbivore challenge was the local snails, I think attracted by the moist microclimate the tree guard/mulch generated- heartbreaking to count the first shoots emerging one day, only to find the shoots gone and well nourished snails instead the next. Thus the EDTA snail pellets, and the reemergence of more seedling shoots a week later....

    so yes, each free tree in this, hopefully, thousand year system, has been very time/energy consuming. Hopefully the thousand years of productivity will justify the $2 tree guard, the 1/2 wheelbarrow of mulch, the 10c snail pellets....I wonder if I will be alive long enough to ever taste that pork...

    Void's system sounds ideal for the cow paddock next door, now to find someone who can provide the cuttings and seeds..
     
  18. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Well, this is an easy type out. Tether the cows, buy up all the rat traps you can find (rats for compost, compost for tress), and diatomateacous earth in the tubes!

    I do have a mouse and slug problem once and awhile. But I don't know much about cows.:)
     
  19. void_genesis

    void_genesis Junior Member

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    Mirrabooka sounds like they are having a hard slog, but hopefully worthwhile once the trees get past the vulnerable stage. It makes you appreciate how hard non-toxic trees have to work to produce thousands of nuts to get a few of them to survive.

    I was really lucky to find myself in a situation where I got to garden for seven years right next door to the place I am now setting up fodder shrub based grazing on a much bigger scale, so I already have a good idea of what grows well in the area and a ready supply of cuttings to get started. Learning to keep your eyes peeled for free seeds and bulk cuttings is a valuable habit as well, and failing that being able to google and ebay persistently until something comes through.

    I don't think it is possible to overemphasise the power of being able to propagate your own material. It gives you the freedom to experiment and figure out if all the things you were told that you absolutely had to do are actually worthwhile (or maybe they are actually detrimental in your particular circumstance).

    Another thing I think newbies to gardening often overlook is how our above ground human perspective on a plant is incomplete. My little cuttings/seedlings that have apparently barely grown after six months of drought in the middle of tall grasses have actually been putting down more extensive root systems that whole time, otherwise they wouldn't have survived. Over this time frame you can't really tell if a plant is making progress or not. In the subtropics you can often see a years worth of growth in three months after apparently stalling during a drought.
     
  20. Manfred

    Manfred Junior Member

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    There is a very good book in German:

    Michael Machatschek: „Laubgeschichten: Gebrauchswissen einer alten Baumwirtschaft, Speise- und Futterlaubkultur“
    ISBN-10: 3205992954, published in 2002, 542 pages

    It describes the different techniques formerly used in the Europen alpine regions for managing und harvesting fodder trees, and how to conserve foliage fodder for the winter.
     

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