Tree Hay - former fodder

Given a choice, which they rarely are in modern agriculture, many livestock prefer to browse on trees rather than graze on grass. The table below illustrates both the reason for their preference, and part of the reason that those living in the Iron Age began to carefully manage the remaining woodland. The forestry practices, on which they relied for fuel, wood, timber, fodder (leaves, nuts, mast), and specialized supplies (oak galls for ink, tannin-rich barks for tanning, etc) continued beyond the Middle Ages, but have been abandoned since the rise of alternate sources.

Abstract from Tree pollarding in western Norway, by Ingvild Austad in The Cultural Landscape: Past, Present, and Future
"The practice of collecting twigs and leaves for fodder for domestic animals is a very old form for fodder harvesting. Leaf fodder can be collected efficiently with small iron tools and the practice has a history at least back to the Iron Age. Almost all species of deciduous trees were used for animal fodder, also some conifers. Although the harvesting of trees for collecting fodder was widely practised all over Norway, the choice of species, techniques and utilization varied from area to area, as did the names given to tree management. 

Pollarding (“styving”) refers to the process of topping trees, i.e. cutting back branches at a height of 2 -3 m, above reach of grazing animals. Lopping (“lauving”) is the actual fodder-collecting. The branches were cut into smaller pieces (approx. 1 m), bunched and tied together. The bunches of twigs (“kjerv”) were dried, and later stored in barns or stacked together (“rauk”). Young shoots were sometimes cut directly from the tree bases or as suckers (coppicing). Some farmers set aside areas that were cut frequently. In some areas, leaves were collected for fodder by plucking them (“rispelauv”). Raking up autumn leaf-fall (“rakelauv”) was practised mostly for the use as bedding in stalls. 

Branches especially from Ulmus glabra (wych elm, Scots elm) and Fraxinus excelsior (European ash) were sometimes collected during the winter for twigs (“ris”) and bark (“skav”) and later fed to animals. Bark from Ulmus glabra was peeled, cut into small pieces, mixed with water and given especially to dairy cows during the winter and early spring. Bark of Ulmus glabra was also valuable for its use in human nutrition (bread, “barkebrød”). 

A wide range of landscape elements and biotopes have been formed and maintained by farming techniques including leaf-collection. Most of the human-influenced and human-dependent vegetation types are under great pressure from extensive disuse, overgrowing and encroachment, vanishing due to inexperience with maintaining and preserving them." 
Playlist: Tree Hay & Mast - Fodder, Pannage .

Table of leaf nutrition. Percentage of constituents in tree species compared to hay and red clover. 

Ulmus glabra  12.6 9.9 2.9 49.2 13.2 12.3
Sorbus aucuparia 11.9 5.9 6.5 50.4 9.9 15.4
Salix caprea 11.5 6.1 3.8 50.3 11.6 16.7
Populus tremula 10.8 8.5 6 43.5 13.3 20.9
Fraxinus excelsior 11.6 6.3 3 50.4 12 16.7
Alnus incana 11.9 3.9 5.9 43.6 17.6 17.4
Betula spp. 11.7 3.9 7 49.2 12 16.2
regular hay 14.96 5.42 2.2 44.43 8.51 24.56
Trifolium pratense 15.65 5.17 1.88 36.76 10.98 28.56

Adapted from The Cultural Landscape: Past, Present, and Future, Birks et al, Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Ulmus glabra  wych elm
Sorbus aucuparia rowan
Salix caprea goat willow
Populus tremula European aspen
Fraxinus excelsior European ash
Alnus incana grey alder
Betula spp. birch
regular hay grass, legumes, herbaceous plants
Trifolium pratense red clover

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