Free Cert. Organic Olive Leaf Forage for Livestock During Drought

We are CCOF members here in Madera County, and have an organic olive orchard. We have been reading about the need for organic feed for livestock, as it is short supply, and the recent call for CCOF members to help each other did resonate with us. We are not involved in livestock, but in reading about suitable forage for livestock, and olive leaf makes good forage. Cuttings are easy to transport and might be suitable for some smaller ranchers who have emergency requirements for sheep or cattle and want to stay organic. We’re not sure if it is desirable, but it could be a way of supplementing during this difficult time, especially for sheep. Please contact us for more info. Here are details about nutritional values that we found in our research:

Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value


Olive leaves and twigs are a suitable forage for ruminants as a bulky feed in maintenance and low-production systems. They are rich in long fibres and require nitrogen and phosphorus supplementation. Leaves treated with copper-based fungicides should not be given to sheep.

Cattle or sheep accept daily 1-1.5 kg of green leaves and 0.8-1 kg of dried leaves per 100 kg of live weight (Göhl, 1982). Olive leaves should be fed green whenever possible (Göhl, 1982). Their nutritive value decreases with drying: reported OM digestibility of fresh leaves (in sheep) is about 55-60 % while OMD of leaves dried on the branches or baled is about 40-50 %. OMD of leaves from chopped branches is in the 15-40% range, even when protected from rain (Delgado Pertíñez et al., 2000). Alkaline treatments (NaOH and NH3) have not been shown to improve significantly the nutritive value of olive leaves (Parellada Vilella et al., 1984).

The low protein digestibility, particularly in the dried leaves, requires nitrogen supplementation with protein or non-protein sources, resulting in higher feed intake (Parellada Vilella et al., 1984).


Old dry leaves are palatable to cattle if they are soaked overnight in 2.5 times the volume of water containing 0.2 % salt (Göhl, 1982). In dairy cattle, ensiling and partial drying decrease bitterness and improve palatability, but total dehydration results in a decrease of palatability (Nigh, 1977).

In dairy cattle, wood splinters were reported to cause low DM intake and serious digestive pathologies (Parellada Vilella et al., 1982).

Sheep and goats

Significant differences in the digestibility of mixtures of olive leaves and twigs have been observed between sheep and goats, and between different breeds of sheep (Merina and Manchega), as certain animals are better at selecting the less woody parts (Gómez Cabrera et al., 1982).

In sheep, the dry matter and organic matter digestibility of dried olive leaves in sheep can be predicted from fiber content using the following equations (Delgado Pertíñez et al., 2000):
- DM digestibility (%) = 98.21 – 1.31 NDF (% DM) (r = - 0.92; RSD = 3.97)
- OM digestibility (%) = 105.65 – 1.39 NDF (% DM) (r = - 0.91; RSD = 4.32)

Feed categories


Heuzé V., Tran G., Gomez Cabrera A., 2012. Olive forage. A programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO.

Information found on - Last updated on October 25, 2012, 15:44

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