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Hybrid Willows

Garth Brown |

One aspect of farming that I try to minimize is having a group of animals stay in any place too long. It's easy to keep everyone rotating all over the place in the warmer months, but once the snow flies and the temperatures drop this becomes more onerous. The pigs especially are happier with some sort of shelter and a nice deep bedding pack to burrow into.

It takes a lot of carbonaceous material to bed down a hoop full of pigs. Straw is expensive, so I like to use wood chips. But these are time consuming to make out of the random trimmings from around the property. One possible way to speed things up would be to plant a row of coppiced trees; once established this would allow me to quickly cut a whole bunch of large, straight trunks just as they reach the perfect size for chipping.

I've selected hybrid willows for this trial. They are easy to propagate, they (supposedly) generate a huge quantity of biomass, the should be good candidates for coppicing, and they are widely available. It will likely be five years before I can begin to assess the viability of the plan, but that's pretty fast when it comes to tree projects. The oaks I planted the first year on the farm are growing nicely, but I expect it will be another decade before I start seeing acorns.


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