Efficient Leaf-dense Tree/Shrub Silage Production from Field Edges: Climate-resilient Winter Forage Supplement for Cattle, Sheep, and Goats

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Grant Recipient: 3 Streams Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Shana Hanson
3 Streams Farm
Karl Hallen
State University of New York (SUNY), College of Environmental Sc


  • Animals: bovine, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy, meat


  • Animal Production: feed rations, winter forage

    Proposal summary:

    Irregular precipitation is decreasing reliability of grass-based forage.  European traditions and recent studies ( Gabriel 2019; Hanson 2020a&b) indicate that climate-resilient Northeastern trees and shrubs have potential to bridge critical storage shortfalls, while contributing ecological/climate services.  Our studies (Hanson 2020a&b) pointed to sticking-point of labor-time with suggestion of younger/lower growth, and exciting potential for mechanically processed leaf-silages if wood content can be reduced. 

    Karl Hallen, SUNY Willow Biomass Project, is beginning to fabricate a chain-flail leaf-separator this winter, to produce low-wood-content leaf-silages.  Our project will complete, trial and perfect this equipment using feedstock from ground-based power-tool harvests of woody broadleaf growth along field edges, on two farms plus MOFGA’s Common Ground. 

    We will feed/not feed leaf-silage thus produced to measure how much cattle, sheep and goats eat, how much less hay they eat, and effect on milk quantity.  Those results plus labor-time per yield, costs, nutritional analyses, conventional forage comparison, and bedding-woodchip byproduct, will clarify utility/feasibility of field-edge production of Northeastern tree silages. 

    The chain-flail leaf-separator may be offered through MOFGA’s Shared-Use Equipment program, and certainly through machine plans in our Final Report.  Along with improving harvest-speed and product density, leaf separation will streamline yield-edible-portion/acre measurements such as SARE FNE18-897 Demo Plot 2nd harvest in 2024-5.    

    This farmer-project precedes collaborative UVM/UNH ideas for trials of broadleaf silage in TNF (feed-mixing system used by large cattle producers), SUNY idea of leaf-silage as byproduct of willow biomass trials, and Lucas Tree interest in roadside leaf-silage production for broader community feed security.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to complete/perfect machinery and test methods for efficient field-edge production of improved nutrient-dense broadleaf tree/shrub silage, analyse nutrition, trial how much cattle, sheep and goats will eat as climate-resilient winter supplement, and assess utility/feasibility in comparison to conventional forages.  

    We will: 

    1.  Complete/perfect Karl’s chain-flail leaf-separator.  


      • Costs of new/used components, labor;
      • Leaf/woodchip proportion plus textural photo per species/age/diameter/length feedstock; 
      • Machine, final diagram, photos, video.  

    2.  Obtain Laboratory Results.  

      • Assess safety of fresh-stripped or ensiled:  cherry, maple, box elder;  
      • Examine leaf-silage nutrition alongside animal intake; 
      • Examine changes, fresh to ensiled. 

    3.  Harvest broadleaf silage from  3 field-edge sites with 5- to 20-year growth of 8+ broadleaf tree/shrub species using power tools and leaf-separator.

    • Collect/pack/seal/label leaf-silage in barrels.  
    • Summarize:  species stem-tallies, labor-times, costs, leaf-silage yields. 

    4.  Offer/don’t offer cattle, sheep and goats unlimited weighed amounts of leaf-silage before usual rations for repeated trial-periods, plus two short trials.  


      • How much they eat. 
      • Change in amount of grass-hay they eat.  
      • Effect on cow and goat milk quantity.

    5.  Compare to other available forages:   

      • Labor & costs per animal utilization, per nutrition, and per yield. 
      • Farmer-participant observations.     
    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.