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Poplars and willows a good source of feed


Friday, 15 March 2013

Poplars and willows a good source of feed

Horizons Regional Council is encouraging hill country farmers to make use of mature poplar and willow trees to feed stock as a lack of rain dries out pastures.

Horizons environmental manager for land Grant Cooper says “poplar and willow trees are fast becoming the only green in a very brown landscape and in some cases they can provide a much-needed sustainable food source”.

“We encourage those farmers who have had trees in the ground for over four years to think about the leaves as a source of supplementary feed.

“Willow and poplar leaves have a high nutritional value and even contain some condensed tannins not found in grass that kill intestinal worms and stimulate ovulation in ewes.

“A trial conducted by Massey University at Riverside Farm near Masterton showed a 15-30 per cent improved lambing percentage in ewes supplementary fed on willows during times of drought,” he says.

Feilding sheep farmer Mark Carter has been feeding his flock poplars for a week now.

“The sheep are a bit stand-offish to start with but once they get a taste of the leaves they get right into it. Now they’re standing at the gate waiting for me each day,” he says.

Horizons has long promoted the planting of willows and poplars as a way to stabilise highly erodible hill country through its environmental grant programme and Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI).

Mr Cooper says while the practicality of using these plantings for feed depends largely on their location and accessibility, those that are accessible can be cropped back to head height to prevent cattle reaching new shoots and will regrow.

“Some farmers have set-up their plantings specifically for this purpose and now is the time to make use of the feed before autumn sets in and the leaves fall away.

“However, safety is paramount. Willows often split when being sawn and you shouldn’t be sawing above your head. This is a job for experienced chainsaw operators with the right gear,” he says.

Anyone seeking more information on pruning or advice on the most palatable varieties is encouraged to contact a Horizons Regional Council environmental management officer on toll free number 0508 800 800.


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