i start osage orange seeds for this purpose. they didnt say horse high, pig tight and bull strong for nothing. easily coppiced to produce a thick hedge of even thickness branches. as mentioned make good firewood and even better building wood.
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
1. Willow would be an integral part of any such hedgerow. My cattle love it. The leaves are 16 percent protein to begin with, and it is easily coppiced and laid into a hedge barrier.
2. The hedgerow should be a polyculture. Plants I am considering are:
a. Sea Buckthorn (thorny barrier, nitrogen fixer, edible fruit for humans and livestock)
b. Osage Orange (time-honored thorny barrier, easily propagated, outstanding firewood plant -- think rocket mass heater feedstock)
c. Hawthorn (thorny barrier, traditional hedgerow plant, leaves and flowers medicinal, berries super high in Vitamin C)
d. Rosa Rugosa (thorny barrier, easily propagated, rose hips super high in Vitamin C)
e. Siberian Pea Shrub (nitrogen fixer, peas are edible for livestock)
f. Mulberry (easily coppiced or pollarded, "Tree Crops" raves about the berries being chicken and hog fatteners)
g. Hazel (traditional hedgerow plant, edible nuts)
h. Elderberry (easily coppiced, edible berries, all parts of the plant medicinal)
I am sure there are others, and I welcome all suggestions that might be adaptable for my situation. Food plants such as comfrey, sunflowers, and Jerusalem artichoke could add to the fence without being part of the actual woven hedge.
Could chickens get through this? Maybe, but if you put it all atop a 4-foot-high hugelkultur berm, as Sepp Holzer recommends in his book, it could be one hell of a lot more effective. Bury some willow in the berm and likely it would sprout like crazy.
My main thought is though you could incorporate all those plants on to your land, they don't necessarily need to be part of a living fence or hedgerow. There's a great drawing of a swale that has a pioneer plant like honeylocust, and then a fruit tree, and some of the smaller plants below it. That could be part of the pasture. I would just worry about willow as part of a living fence because it doesn't seem that strong/limbs break.
As for the chickens, it depends how tall the trees are and how heavy the chickens are i.e. how high can they fly? And how badly would they want to get out?
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Hugh Hawk wrote:Underplanting seems like a good idea. On one of those flickr photos you can see that grass has invaded under the willow and it would be hard to trim in there. Comfrey could be a good candidate?
Only if chickens can get at it *intermittently*: Comfrey is such a good herb and chickens are so fond of it that if they had constant access, they would totally wreck it, I fear. If you were to install a temporary fence to keep them out of it, it might work, perhaps like a tall enough snow fence?
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Strategy: use different layers of hedge. Interior of willow, next bamboo, last strip of corn or some other fodder crop. The idea is to sacrifice the exterior to the beasties while providing a triple layer barrier to the critter in the pen.
Tactical: The inner layer must be something that the penned critters don't like. A dense hedge of blackberry might work for chickens (let them eat the berries) but would not stop pigs. The middle layer should be something that adds height. Micanthus or sun chokes for example. A dense planting can be 10' high three rows deep. Outer layer clover or buckwheat as examples.
the one downside to this approach is the loss of the land for other purposes.
I feed black locust to my cattle and goats every summer. They love it. They come running whenever they hear me run my chainsaw! I have noticed is if I give them too much they loose interest and the leaves go to waste. So I limit what I give them to what I think they will eat. My theory is like it tastes awesome at first then eventually their brains tell them its enough. If you let them self limit they will be fine. I would not be surprised if you starved your cattle and only let them eat BL leaves you would have sick or dead animals but why would you do that?
My analogy is crisp and tart fall apples. There is nt anything I like more. I can eat 3 or maybe 4 then I dont want anymore. If you forced me to eat only apples I would be sick.
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What Jeff Marchand said about cattle and sheep loving black locust and then loosing interest in it matches up exactly to the behaviour id expect. As I understand it Black Locust is an established silvopasture crop for feeding to animals (my interest is small ruminants). It has great crude protein levels, but this is counterbalanced by high tannin levels which cause issues with digestibility. The net effect is that is a useful feed crop, but animals may benefit even more from a crop that has a lower crude protein level to begin with, but better digestibility so they can utilize more of it. I'm planning on setting up a silvopasture system so have been reading up on this. I'd recommend Steve Gabriel's Silvopasture book and there are great academic journal papers on research gate and Google scholar. I have not come across any academic work suggesting that black locust is poisonous to small ruminants when supplied as a component in a mixed diet or free choice system. The high tannin levels sound like they could cause problems if you fed black locust exclusively.