Tree Hay

“It’s the forgotten food – it was a major source of fodder for domestic animals in both summer and winter in the past”

Ted Green

Ted shows us how traditional breeds of cattle and rare breed, Exmoor ponies love his tree fodder, especially in winter when other sources of food more scarce. The tree hay in this case was cut in summer from young trees to create new pollards of ash, cherry, elm, wild service and hazel – in fact any deciduous tree will do. It was stored in tightly tied bundles which helped to keep the leaves green.

The practice of creating tree hay from trees is very ancient. In Ethiopia it is believed to date back 12-14,000 years. In England there is evidence of this practice from sub fossilised pollards from the Trent during gravel extraction – which were carbon dated at 4,400 years old.

Extramadura – land of tree domes

Landscape of trees in Extramadura

The never ending treescape of Extramadura is full of open grown pollard trees – usually holm oak or cork oak, stretching from horizon to horizon. It’s a treescape on an epic landscape scale. In early spring the flowering of the trees is astonishing – so much pollen, so much potential for autumn fruit.

The trees are managed in this way to maximise production of wood or bark for fuel and cork and acorns for mast to feed the famous pigs for their Iberian ham. This sylvo-pastoral or wood pasture system is a tried and tested practice that has been happening for millennia and has proved itself to be wonderfully sustainable. It’s “two tier agriculture” says Ted – the trees are productive but because their crowns are kept separate and relatively low, it allows plenty of open space for other grazers such as cattle.