Hickory trees produce nutritious nuts and protein-rich leaves that can make excellent supplemental feed for cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and other livestock.
Adding hickory nuts and leaves to your animals' diets can provide extra nutrition and variety in their feed.
Here is some key information on using these hickory tree byproducts as livestock feed.
- Hickory nuts are high in fat, protein, and nutrients, making them a good supplemental feed for livestock. However, they should be fed in moderation due to their high fat content.
- Hickory leaves also provide useful nutrition from their protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But the tannins may limit digestibility, so they should not exceed 10-20% of feed.
- To prepare the nuts, they need to be cracked open and can be fed whole, coarsely ground, or finely ground into nut butter for maximum digestibility.
- Hickory nuts and leaves can be fed to cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and other livestock as part of a balanced diet. They provide extra nutrition and variety.
- Benefits of adding hickory nuts and leaves to feed include: additional energy, protein, vitamins and minerals; increased diet variety and palatability; support for weight gain and milk production.
- Hickory nuts and leaves are readily available on-farm sources of nutrition to supplement livestock feed and promote animal health.
Hickory nuts are packed with nutrients and energy. The meat of the nut contains around 70% fat and 18% protein.
This makes them great for providing concentrated calories and nutrients.
They are also a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Similarly, hickory leaves offer quality nutrition. The protein content of dried hickory leaves can be over 15%.
They also provide carotenoids, tannins, and other plant compounds. Adding hickory leaves can boost protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in an animal's diet.
Preparing Hickory Nuts
Before feeding them to your livestock, the hard outer shell of hickory nuts needs to be cracked open.
You can place small quantities of nuts in a sack and crack them with a hammer.
For larger amounts, consider investing in a hand-cranked or electric nut cracker.
Once shelled, the nuts can be fed whole or coarsely ground into nut meal.
If you have equipment to finely grind the nuts into nut butter, this makes the fats and proteins even more digestible for your animals.
Feeding Hickory Nuts
Hickory nuts are very energy and calorie dense, so animals do not need large quantities to get nutritional benefits.
You can safely feed cows, pigs, and sheep around 0.5 lb of nut meat per day as a supplement.
Too many nuts can lead to digestive upset and diarrhea, so feed appropriately small amounts.
The high fat content of hickory nuts makes them excellent for fattening pigs and enhancing milk fat content in dairy cows.
They can help sheep and goats put on weight before breeding season. The nuts can be mixed with grain or silage for variety or fed on their own as a treat.
Using Hickory Leaves
Fresh or dried hickory leaves make a quality addition to livestock feed.
Their protein content can complement grass, hay, or other roughage sources that are lower in protein.
For the best nutrition, harvest leaves while they are still green. Leaves will be highest in nutrients before turning brown and falling from the trees.
You can air dry harvested leaves for storage and feed them dry, or chop fresh leaves to immediately supplement feed.
Because hickory leaves contain tannins that limit digestibility, they should be fed in moderation.
Drying and ensiling can help reduce tannin content.
Aim to include dried or ensiled leaves at around 10-20% of the total feed ration.
Benefits of Hickory Feed
Supplementing standard feed sources with hickory nuts and leaves can provide:
- Additional energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals
- More variety and appeal for picky eaters
- Support for weight gain and milk production
- Quality nutrition from an easily harvested source
With their excellent nutrient composition, hickory nuts and leaves are a homegrown way to nourish your livestock and promote their health and productivity.
Carefully incorporating them into feed rations can enhance the diets of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and other livestock.