How can I feed leaves in winter?
If your zoo is situated in a region where fresh leaves are available during winter, count yourself lucky.
For the rest of us it isn't always easy to feed leaves in winter time. Here are a few methods to solve this problem.
- Buying leaves:
Dried leaves are used in many commercial products like thee, soap or shampoo. There are companies that collect these leaves, dry them and sell in bulk. One of them is a German company called Alfred Galke GmbH. In their catalogue, available on www.galke.com, check for whole leaves (Fol. tot.). Leaves that where successfully fed are Rubi idaei , Vitis viniferi , Tiliae, Betulae, Salicis, Populi, Fraxini. Prices for these common dried leaves range from 2 to 3 euro/kg (1 to 2 dollar/lbs). By soaking them before feeding , they become more tasty to eat. After some time the animals also eat the dry leaves.
- Drying leaves:
You can cut branches and store them in a dry space. Leaves of the American Oak stay green for a long period after drying them.
- Freesing leaves:
Strip the leaves of the branches and put them in a plastic bag. Frees the leaves at -20°C (-4°F) and afterwards store them at -4°C (24°F). This has successfully been done using willow and hazelnut leaves.
- Ensiling leaves:
Ensiling is a forage preservation method based on spontaneous lactic acid fermentation under anaerobic conditions. Many fresh forage crops like maize (corn), wheat and lucerne (alfalfa) are preserved by ensiling and stored as silage. The ensiling process can be done in casks. This has succesfully been done using willow leaves.