Tree Leaf Fodder for Livestock: Transitioning Farm Woodlots to ‘Air Meadow’ for Climate Resilience

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/29/2020
Grant Recipient: 3 Streams Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Shana Hanson
3 Streams Farm


  • Additional Plants: trees
  • Animals: bovine, goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed management, grazing management, stockpiled forages, winter forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, drought tolerance, forest farming, silvopasture
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Proposal summary:

    “Multistrata agroforestry systems represent the highest level of carbon sequestration in food production…There is a need for development of multistrata production systems for non-tropical climates…Fodder tree silvopasture in particular is worthy of broad-scale expansion” (Toensmeier, The Carbon Farming Solution, 2016, pp.323-4).

    Recent droughts emphasize need for climate-resilient livestock fodder alternatives. Multi-strata ‘air meadow’ canopy harvests of existing woodland are less vulnerable to weather extremes than grasslands, and have immediate feed results.

    Historically Europeans relied on established ‘air meadows’ of pollards heavily pruned in 3 to 5 year cycles, to overwinter cows, sheep, goats and hogs. Transition from a woodlot of standard trees is more labor intensive than subsequent harvests, methods are less known, and fodders produced are untried in our region.

    We will document guidance from pollards (already established during 7 years multi-lingual research), and transition 1 acre of woodland to pollards sprouting above browse height. We will describe for comparability to other farmers’ woodlots. We will track person-hours, and calculate total edible dry matter used by goats in plot. We will solicit responses of cows, hogs, goats, and sheep to 8 broadleaf species fresh, dried and (excepting maple) ensiled, intact and shredded, plus cooked (cows and hogs only), for broader farm applicability.

    Our reports, shared at regional events, will provide farmers with how-to information, ideas of labor output and fodder weight produced, and livestock species’ feed choice ratings. Final photos will include growth in 2019. Farmers will be equipped to design ‘air meadow’ canopies to back up conventional rations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We will: Examine our previously established pollards and document findings, to guide development of durable and fodder-productive tree structures; Restructure 1 acre of woodland to create pollarded ‘air meadow’ fodder canopies, prioritizing species with long seasonal windows of usage by our goats, and prioritizing mid-sized trees over large and small trees for immediately productive but reachable canopies; Record descriptive data for farmer woodlot comparison including end height projection, and tracking labor time; Record weights of fresh and dried fodder eaten on the 1 acre site year-round by goats, trialing modern adaption of traditional stacking, and compute lbs. DM/acre; Document goat, sheep, cow and hog responses to 8 species of intact and shredded ‘twig-leaf’ fodders fresh, dried, ensiled (excepting maple), and (hogs and cows only) dried then cooked, so that farmers can offer feeds likely to be useful to their livestock; and present our user-friendly and instructive reports to regional farmers at face-to-face events.

    Northeastern farmers will thus be better informed to establish tree leaf fodder production as supplement to grassland feeds, reducing their environmental risks. Our Final Report and demo site plus subsequent efforts of other farmers can found an up-to-date knowledge base adapting this well-tried methodology to the Northeast.

    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.