Hay Alternatives for Livestock

These hay substitutes for livestock of willow hay, weed hay, and winter pasture can easily be foraged and will help keep your animals fed through the colder months of the year.

| September/October 1977

These hay substitutes for livestock provide a shoestring way for you to forage food for your goats and cows during the cold months ahead.

Hay Alternatives for Livestock

It's certainly not news that the past summer was an exceptionally dry one in many parts of the country . . . so dry that a great many back-to-the-landers lost all or a portion of the hay they intended to feed their livestock during the coming winter. What is news to a lot of folks, though, is that there still are at least three possible shoestring ways for you to provide forage for your goats, cows, and other beasts during the cold months ahead . . . even if your summer crop of hay did burn out in the drought.

For some time now, I've been feeding my goats baled hay that I've "bought" with honey . . . simply because it's a lot easier for me to produce honey than hay, and three pounds of my homestead sweetener buys a 75-pound bale (enough dried vegetation to feed one goat for a couple of weeks). "Why should I bother to make my own hay?" I've always said to myself.

Always — that is — until last summer, when I started thinking: What would I do if the local hay supply suddenly dried up? Could I make my own? How much of a hassle would it be? Being a firm believer in contingency planning, I decided to answer these questions once and for all. In the process of answering them, I came up with three highly satisfactory alternatives to boughten fodder: willow hay. weed hay, and winter pasture.

Willow Hay

Willow is an excellent forage crop: All kinds of animals — goats, cattle, beavers, etc. — love it. Unlike grass, clover, and other hay crops — which become woody and unpalatable after they bloom — willow blooms in early spring, then spends the rest of the summer sending out succulent new growth.

It so happened that I knew of an excellent foraging spot where — several years ago — my father had bulldozed a road through a willow grove that'd grown up alongside a river. To keep the weed-like trees from completely engulfing the path, Dad had resorted to spraying the cleared area with herbicide several times each summer. Aha! I saw the perfect opportunity to do a good deed for my dad, my goats, and the environment . . . all at once.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!