Muka-- Tree Hay as an Alternative Livestock Feed

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2023: $10,706.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2025
Grant Recipient: O'Meara Family Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
John O'Meara
O'Meara Family Farm


  • Agronomic: hay, other
  • Animals: bovine
  • Animal Products: meat


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forest farming, forest/woodlot management

    Proposal summary:

    This project will test a way of making and storing tree hay as livestock feed.  With the cost of  feed on the rise, livestock producers need to find innovative ways to produce as much nutritious feed as possible in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.

    Tree hay and the feeding of trees during the grazing season has been a common practice historically.  In recent decades it has more commonly been a practice in times of drought.  To help with the cost of keeping livestock in the winter, a method of preserving and storing relatively large amounts of tree hay is needed.  Because tree hay is bulky and does not readily lend itself to ordinary haying equipment (baling), this project will process small branches, twigs, and leaves with a wood chipper and dry the product with a modified grain dryer.

    In addition, this project will test palatability of two tree species-- poplar and black spruce.  The two species are readily available in the northeast and have been shown to have potential as livestock feed.

    Many farmers in the northeast own or have access to an underutilized woodlot.  Also, the production of tree hay could be done in coordination with local logging operations.  The ability to produce palatable, nutritious feed in a time efficient and environmentally friendly manner would help livestock producers maintain long-term viability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to develop an efficient way to dry and store relatively large amounts of tree hay (muka) on farm.  This project will do the following:

    1. Determine the labor and cost required to harvest and store muka using a wood chipper and a modified grain dryer.

    2. Evaluate which of three variants of muka are the best supplemental feed for beef cattle.  The three variants  ( poplar,   black spruce, 50% poplar/50% black spruce) will be tested for nutrition at DairyOne in New York.  It will be tested for protein, nitrogen, and trace minerals.  The muka will be fed in the fall and winter of 2023-2024.  A control of just hay-- our normal ration-- will also be fed and compared to the other three feeds. 

    3. Evaluate palatability of the feed including how much is consumed and how much is wasted. 

    4. Evaluate cattle for weight gain and body condition while being fed the muka. 

    5. Determine which of the three feeds is the most appropriate for beef cattle and produce a financial and nutritional analysis of the feed in comparison to other 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.