A Closer Look to Guide Farm Use of Tree/Shrub Silages: Per-Species & Ensilement Analyses for Safe, Nutritious Rationing, plus Replicable Trial Results

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $29,725.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2026
Grant Recipient: 3 Streams Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Shana Hanson
3 Streams Farm


  • Agronomic: other
  • Additional Plants: native plants, trees, other
  • Animals: bovine, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy, meat


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed formulation, feed rations, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Natural Resources/Environment: hedges - woody

    Proposal summary:

    Northeastern farmers’ climate risks around grass-based forage
    continue. In 2023, water-logged fields caused a first-harvest
    scramble in mid-August. Nutritional quality of such late
    first-cut is poor, and second-cut was low in volume. Meanwhile,
    our weather-resilient SARE FNE 22-013 harvest of field-edge trees
    and shrubs yielded plentifully; using the leaf-separator
    prototype, we produced 2,500+ gallons of tree/shrub leaf silage
    (well over 60-70 planned barrels) in only 1,000 lineal feet of
    field edges (our proposal identified 5,700 lf for potential
    harvest). We have obtained fresh-frozen/ensiled sample pairs of
    23 species so far (6 more than planned). Preliminary SARE
    FNE22-013 palatability testing is confirming positive livestock
    responses from previous SARE FNE18-897. VTGF mini-grant results
    (Hanson 2020 b) showed high non-fiber carbohydrates
    (NFC), a perfect complement to low-NFC late first-cut hay.

    Using this rare bank of forage plus more plants designated
    “invasive,” we will: Test 28 species of fresh/ensiled
    sample-pairs, for species-specific nutrition plus ensilement
    effects; Obtain additional hydrogen-cyanide analyses (only 1
    fresh/ensiled pair was budgeted) including wilted and pin cherry
    samples; Check relation of ruminant consumption of 6 species
    (rather than 2 budgeted) to gallic acid content, and measure
    change from ensiling; Use just 7 most plentiful tree/shrub silage
    species for our winter dairy-goat/cow trials, to obtain
    triplicate nutritional analyses that meet standards for
    replicability; and offer farmers this much-needed data both
    in-person and with improved web outreach.

    Farmers will supplement compromised grass harvests with these
    alternative on-farm forages, accurately and safely planning a
    nutritious and sufficient winter diet for their ruminant herds.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to seize an opportunity for optimal data
    collection from SARE FNE22-013’s vast tree/shrub-leaf
    fresh-sample and silage “bank” collected in 2023 plus additional
    samples, and improve/use web-based outreach, to bridge an
    informational gap that is slowing livestock farmers from
    productive use of on-site woody perennial forages when weather
    challenges interfere with their grass-forage

     We will: 

    1. Broaden analyses of nutrition, ensilement and digestibility
      to 28 tree/shrub species including 6 “invasives,;” for
      generalizable findings on ensilement plus per-species info sought
      by Northeastern farmers;
    2. Broaden toxin testing with ensiled comparisons to 2 cherry
      and 5 maple species plus sumac, sampling a range of harvest
      dates, wiltedness, and ensilement time-periods, to minimize
      farmer and livestock risk in using these high-yielding species
      common to field edges;
    3. Obtain triplicate analyses for 7 silage species fed during
      upcoming winter goat/steer and cow dietary intake/milking trials,
      to encourage further study by meeting academic standards, while
      also increasing confidence for farmer recommendations; and
    4. Update, improve and use our website, listserve, and network
      to organizations/other sites serving farmers, to streamline
      provision of this critical alternative forage data.  

    Northeastern farmers can then effectively supplement ruminant
    rations with vital on-farm forages.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.