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Nettle for Animals

4th October World Animal Day

Today is World Animal Day when we celebrate animal life in all its forms as well as humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom. 4th October was chosen because it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi – a saint well known for his love of animals -, however the day is not restricted to any particular religion.

Nettle as animal forage

The health benefits of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) are well known. It’s a traditionally used herb that contains tons of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Nettle is one of the most studied herbs nowadays considered to be a superfood. But it is not only good for human healing and consumption.  Nettle is an amazing nutritious ingredient of animal forage.

No quadruped except the donkey can touch fresh nettle, on account of its stinging power, but if you cut the nettle and allow it to become wilted, it loses its sting and livestock love to eat it. It is well known that when dried and made into hay, the stinginess is gone, cows can relish it and give more milk than when fed on hay alone. In Sweden and Russia, nettle has sometimes been cultivated as a fodder plant, being mown several times a year, and given to dairy cows.

Nettle was much used as a substitute for fodder during the war, and instructions for its use were laid down by German military authorities. It was found that horses that had become thin and suffered from digestive troubles benefited from the use of nettle leaves. In the past, horse traders would feed nettle seed to horses a few weeks before selling them in Holland, and also in Egypt. Horse-dealers mixed the seeds of nettle with oats in order to give the animals a silky shiny coat. Victor Hugo in Les Miserables confirmed that “the seed of the nettle mingled with fodder imparts a gloss to the coats of animals” and the seeds were once used to fatten up fowl.

Nettle is also great for poultry. Dried and powdered finely and put into the food, it increases egg production and is healthy and fattening. Turkeys, as well as ordinary poultry, thrive on nettle chopped small and mixed with their food.

Nettle for pets

For your dog and cat, make a powder from dried herb and add to the pet’s food or make treats occasionally for boosted nutrition, shiny coat, kidney support and prevent rheumatic conditions. Make a nourishing herbal infusion of nettle leaf and leave it in the bowl for the pet to drink. Always supply an additional bowl of regular water for your friend as well. Animals will use their keen instincts to choose if they need the nettle.

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