Barking, stripping, and begging for milk. ( 4 Images)
The cattle are stripping bark from our willow trees, and from the branches stacked in the brash pile that refuses to burn. Willow is a fodder crop, and cattle like and do well on it. They eat willow leaves, bark, and trimmings up to 10 mm in diameter, or just the bark in winter. Each 5 – 10-year-old tree can produce 20+kg of dry matter edible forage, and around 60 kg of leaves.
Willow leaves are high in tannin, zinc and magnesium, but low in salt. The marsh cattle have lots of tasty grasses and other green vegetation to graze upon. At this time of year, though, nutritional values are low, so they eat willow bark and hay to make up for it.
When coppicing and pollarding leafed willow in late summer, the cattle push between us in their eagerness to get at it; they prefer leaves to bark.
We have coppiced a lot of willow this year, and are still doing so. In spring, the stools will sprout tasty shoots that will soon resemble willow bushes. The cattle are not allowed on productive areas of the marsh during the growing season as they will eat the wild flowers and plants. As the growing season nears its end, the cattle will move from pasture to pasture, depending on the grazing plan; it is at this time that they will enjoy the willow leaves and balsam. In late summer, the cattle are spoiled for choice when it comes to tasty growth to eat. We would like the Himalayan balsam eaten before anything else.
The brash pile that refuses to burn gave up the fight today. It burned so ferociously hot that it consumed itself and everything else fed to it.