In the past, when we still kept goats, I’d often chop down brush for the little beasties to nibble on for fodder. It wasn’t something we did often, but I did it, especially during the winter months, to give the goats a little bit of greenery to eat on after they’d devoured the easier to reach underbrush.
The goats loved it, as I spent more time in their enclosure, which always made them happy, and it helped clear land.
To be honest, sometimes I just did it because I ran out of hay, and wanted to tide them over until that afternoon when I had a chance to get to the local feed and seed and buy more.
Recently, however, I found this article, which introduced me to the concept of pollarding to create fodder for animals.
Pollarding, according to wikipedia, is the act of topping trees to encourage growth, prevent storm damage and help your trees live longer.
Essentially, pollarding is done by whacking away the unwanted growth of a tree, usually keeping it to a shorter height than it would normally grow to.
While it can be pretty severe — trees are often pollarded to prevent them from hitting power lines — the practice actually allows the tree to live longer, as it keeps it in a state of growth, extending the life of the tree.
The practice is an ancient one. According to the wikipedia article on Pollarding, it’s practiced in many parts of the world, and pollarding was granted to peasants in Europe as the right of estover, or the right to lop fuel limbs from royal forests.
In some cases, the material was put up and allowed to dry so animals would have materials to overwinter on.
So, it’s great for trees, but what about animals? Obviously, you want to make sure you’re not giving your animals foliage from trees that can harm them, but honestly, that’s pretty easy to find out.
In fact, goats may prefer it over other options. Technically, goats aren’t “grazers,” but instead are considered browsers, like deer. They like to eat leaves, underbrush and bark.
The practice, however, is also applicable to other, more traditionally grazing animals, like cows. This forum from the permies.com group shows many cattle owners using pollarding to create more fodder for their cows.
According to this site, wild llamas will munch on tree foilage, so it’s probably a safe practice for these animals as well.
And, best of all, pollarding will allow homesteaders without a lot of grassland to cut their hay bills. I’m betting the animals will enjoy the fresh food even more than hay!