This was originally written with rabbits in mind, I think this information is very usefull for our goats. Thanks to the contributors from homesteadingtoday.com in the rabbit forum. Mesquite for Rabbit feed! By James Dilley We all know that Mesquite makes food from the B B Q taste better, But how about as A high protein Rabbit feed, I have used The Honey mesquite to replace 25% of A rabbits feed ration.There are 3 Species of Mesquite trees/shrubs. There latin name is prosopis pubescens. The tree grows from Old Mexico To cali. All the way to Southwestern Utah! The Mesquite is A Legume, And grows where there is water with in 50' of the surface. They are A Deciduius tree.And in the summer 75% of A coyotes diet is Mesquite. The Native Americans used the beans in making Pinole It grows in Thickets, Up to 5,500 ft above sea level. I found some material on the Mesquite tree At:texas agrilife research and extension at uvalde texas. It was also know as Iron wood. Rabbits love the seed pods and leaves as well as smaller branches. The other types are Screwbean Mesquite and Velvet bean Mesquite. The trees grow up to 20' tall and the Tap root goes down twice that far. The trees grow almost anywhere. And yes they can have Nasty spines. Of course the feeds you feed can vary depending on where you live. Horses and other live stock readily eat the beans & leaves but A horse can Colic from to much. And I would caution any one wanting to feed Mesquite or Any other wild feeds ,PLZ make sure that the leaves ad such are NOT sprayed. as The chemical can kill the Rabbits. I was seeing litter sizes up to 8 Live bunnies per litter 4 times A year. I'll post A few more Plants from the South west as time Allows. Next Watch for South Texas Alfalfa. AKA Cactus! Mulberry and Feeding Rabbits There are 10 to 15 different species of mulberry. The most common are: Morus alba, White Mulberry (originated in east Asia) which was brought to several countries for use as Silkworm food Morus rubra, Red Mulberry (originated in North America) Morus nigra, Black Mulberry (originated in southwest Asia) Mulberries are so widespread and prolific in North America that most people consider them a weed. The seeds are spread by birds, raccoons, foxes, and opposums, or by fruit falling on the ground. Mulberry can form either a small tree or a large bush. The single leaves have serrated (toothed) edges and vary widely in shape. The bark is smooth and has an orangish color. Rabbits eat leaves, bark, and tender twigs. Since this is my first season feeding Mulberry I have no information about the storage and use of dried leaves. The twigs and leaves I have used to date were produced in late spring and early summer. The leaves and young twigs were consumed quickly. Bark was eaten off larger branches by some of the rabbits but not all. Even youg babies were fed Mulberry with no problems. Berries and young twigs are edible for humans. Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons has some recipies. Can be a valuable supplement for rabbits. A study was done in Nigeria comparing comercially prepared feeds compared to plain mulberry and diets supplemented with mulberry leaves. There was no loss of weight or growth reduction in rabbits with diets of up to 50% mulberry leaves. http://www.pjbs.org/pjnonline/fin312.pdf Studies show mulberry leaves can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol and body fat in rabbits and humans http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10993206 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulberry http://www.arnatural.org/forestry/ch...e_mulberry.htm http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics...orus/rubra.htm ALFALFA, while technically not a weed, does grow like one on our lot! It's also something that almost anyone could plant around the edges of their garden, for instance, in order to have it available for their rabbits. Alfalfa, Medicago sativa, is a cool-season, perennial, flowering legume. In the UK it's called lucerne. The plants live from three to twelve years, depending on climate, but are adapted to most of the United States. It has trouble surviving the winters in the colder parts of Alaska, and needs more winter chill than some parts of the deep South get, but otherwise you can probably grow it! It can grow up to three feet high, and has a very deep root system, making it drought resistant, although in my semi-arid climate it does appreciate being watered once in a while. If you are going to plant it, you need to start with an area that hasn't grown alfalfa for several years, because of an issue called 'autotoxicity' -- alfalfa seeds won't grow among alfalfa plants. This is why farmers rotate alfalfa crops with other crops. It is one of the highest-yielding hay crops, with yields (from three cuttings) often in the four-tons per acre range. In some climates, such as parts of California, they can get up to sixteen tons per acre with irrigation! It should be pretty easy to get high yields when growing smaller amounts at one side of your garden! Alfalfa has the root nodules common to many legumes, allowing it to fix nitrogen in the soil. This makes it a high-protein feed. It's also high in calcium, making it an excellent feed for nursing moms and growing kits. It can be used as pasture, and I do feed alfalfa fresh to my rabbits, but in fairly small quantities. They are still getting pellets. Too much fresh alfalfa has been known to cause bloat in ruminants, so I've been a little cautious about it with the rabbits. They do get some alfalfa hay, also, and really appreciate it both fresh and as hay. Since the main ingredient in rabbit pellets is usually alfalfa, there shouldn't be any down-side to feeding them alfalfa hay. If you want to grow your own alfalfa for hay, it's a good idea to get, and learn to use, a scythe. Scythes really aren't any more difficult, or any slower, to use than a weedeater -- and they are a lot quieter! You do have to keep them very sharp, though. Since I'm posting this from work, and have never had much luck posting pictures here anyway, I'm including a link to a Wikipedia article which has a photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfalfa Kathleen Sycamore tree / Platanus occidentalis A native of the eastern and central part of the Untied States. It is common in wet soils along streams and bottom lands. Some people consider this tree a weed because of it's rapid growth and ability to resprout from the trunk when it is cut. Other problems associated with this tree are the massive leaf cover, drooping branches, and easily shed sheets of bark. These problems are a huge benefit to the people who keep rabbits. Drooping branches place green foliage within easy reach. Sheets of thin (about 1/8th inch thick) bark are easily gathered in early summer. The huge leaves drop slowly in late fall to early winter. All are readily eaten by rabbits. I have been feeding sycamore to my rabbits for 11 years. Green leaves are trimmed as the branches droop down into our way and given to the rabbits. Both leaves and green twigs are eaten. Bark is eaten off large mature branches. Green leaves that drop through the late summer and early fall are fed immediately. We gather the large pieces of shed bark for our rabbits. They can be stored in feed sacks for winter use as a hay substitute. A shed full of rabbits crunching on dry bark sounds quite similar to a group of teenagers eating potato chips. The dried autumn leaves are a feed that is a bit more difficult to store. The leaves usually come down with heavy rains and their large size makes them hard to dry. If you can dry the leaves thoroughly they can be stored and fed all winter and into early spring when other green foods become available. Do not store the leaves in plastic bags. Large open bins, paper bags, cloth bags, and unused wire cages are the best storage containers. http://forestry.about.com/library/silvics/blsilsyc.htm http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics...cidentalis.htm These photos are not mine but they are good ones: http://dcwi.com/~bmills/trees/Planet...more/index.htm Blackberry, and Raspberry, and Bramble! Blackberries and raspberries, often termed "brambles", are a diverse group of species and hybrids in the genus Rubus. They are members of the Rosaceae family, closely related to strawberry in the subfamily Rosoideae. Rubus is one of the most diverse genera of flowering plants in the world, consisting of 12 subgenera, some with hundreds of species. Description and Identification: Both blackberries and raspberries grow on canes. The compound leaves consist of 3 or 5 leaflets. They both have thorns, although there are some thorn free varieties. The flowers resemble small single roses and are white or light pink in color. The easiest way to tell raspberries and blackberries apart is by the berries and the canes. The ripe raspberry is a cup that slips from a central knob or core. In the blackberry the core is part of the ripe fruit. The cross-section of a blackberry cane looks angled and grooved (like a starfish or star shape). The raspberry's is circular. Benefits to Feeding: Both raspberry and blackberry leaves are high in tannins which can relieve acute diarrhea. This makes them an excellent choice for any rabbit new to greens or with digestive upset. I have personally fed blackberry leaves to my 3 week old kits with no ill effects. Another benefit to raspberry leaves is they are known for their reproductive benefits. Raspberry leaves are believed to strengthen the uterus and thereby to help ease labor. They also support lactation. Raspberry leaves have an extremely high calcium level and a very high Ca ratio. Raspberry leaves also contain high levels of vitamins A and C. Most forages contain manganese but raspberry leaves contain more manganese than any other herb at 14.6mg per 100gm dried herb. Manganese deficiency can lead to bone abnormalities and retarded growth because manganese is required for the formation of the mucopolysacchride which forms the organic matrix of bone. Sow Thistles and Prickly Lettuce Introduction: Last year, when I was giving myself a crash course in safe plants for rabbits, I found myself confusing the various sow thistles and prickly lettuce, a species that shares many details of appearance with the sow thistle family. There are at least three sow thistle species that are common over most of North America: perennial sow thistle (Sonchus arvensis) annual smooth sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) spiny annual sow thistle (Sonchus asper) All are fast growing summer weeds with milky sap and yellow flowers that resemble tiny dandelions and go to seed in much the same manner. Prickly lettuce (Lactuca scariola or Lactuca serriola) also shares these characteristics. All four are compositae or composite flowers, members of the huge aster family. Let’s talk about prickly lettuce first before we move on to the sow thistles. PRICKLY LETTUCE Lactuca scariola Other Botanical Name: Lactuca serriola Other Common Names: Compass plant Photo: http://www.missouriplants.com/Yellow...iola_page.html Other Sources: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/orga...eed.php?id=143 http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weed...rd.asp?id=1010 http://www.arthurleej.com/a-pricklylettuce.html Description: A winter annual or biennial, prickly lettuce first forms a low-growing rosette of lobed leaves. As it begins to grow upward, the leaves become very flat, edged with spines and develop a line of small spines along the mid-rib of the underside of the leaf. They may or may not be lobed and both forms may appear on the same plant. All parts exude a bitter milky sap when broken. Identification Tips: Prickly Lettuce can be easily identified by the line of small prickles all the way up the centre vein on the underside of each leaf. Also watch for this plant’s habit of twisting its leaves to face the sun. This gives rise to its other common name, compass plant. Distribution: A European plant that has become naturalized in most areas of North America. Uses: A close relative of cultivated lettuce, it can be used as a salad green when young. I tasted it the other day and it has a mild flavour when young and would be fine along with other greens. I would think it would also work in stir-fries or soups. Prickly lettuce is also excellent green feed for rabbits, especially in spring and summer. They have no problems coping with the spines, which for the most part are fairly soft, and they seem to find it extremely palatable. Occasionally mine will leave a tough stem, but the leaves are always eaten. Cautions: Cattle feeding on lush regrowth in autumn after summer droughts have been known to die with emphysema-like symptoms after eating large quantities of this plant. This apparently only happens to ruminants and only when the young leaves regenerate in response to autumn rains. The mature leaves and the dried leaves are safe. Since learning this, I have limited the amounts of regrowth I am feeding to my rabbits. Prickly lettuce is not known to cause problems for horses, only for ruminants, and since rabbits' digestive systems bear many similarities to horses’ it seems unlikely that rabbits will be adversely affected… but I see no reason to take unnecessary risks. Summary: A very abundant and useful wild plant. Used judiciously, it adds variety to the diet of forage fed rabbits. Young rabbits seem to thrive on it. Mine have been eating it alongside their mother from the age of two weeks with no visible ill effects. ****** cont'd.