Fodder, Livestock, Urban Homesteading and Self-Reliance

Weeds for Feed – Willow (Fodder Plants #2)

coppice(Salix sp.)

The second perennial fodder plant in this series is willow.  Willow is a common plant and has the great advantage of being able to grow in very wet, poorly drained areas that would be unsuitable for other livestock feed plants.  Like mulberry, willow can be coppiced to provide a large number of leafy twigs that will be wholly consumed by goats, rabbits and cattle.

Willow leaves are highest in protein in the early spring, up to 25% in April.  Protein drops and fiber content rises though the growing season, ending at about 11% protein in November.  However; dry wheat generally tests out at 10% protein, so 11% is hardly anything to sneeze at.

Willow is one of the earliest trees to bud and leaf in the spring, providing nutritious green feed when most pasture plants are still in winter dormancy.  Also, since it is a deep rooted perennial, willow will stay green during drought when pastures go dormant and lose much of their feed value.

One of the most exciting things about willow as a fodder plant is the ease in which you can propagate it.  Cuttings can be put in water or moist sand and will quickly root.  Depending on the variety and conditions, willow can grow rapidly.  Hybrid varieties can grow up to 8 feet per year.  A woven willow fence or a willow hedgerow can offer containment, a windbreak, and nutritious feed all in one pretty package.

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