3.4.5 Animal fodder

From the Neolithic, farmhouses have contained stable sections. The presence of stables indicates the presence of livestock, manure and the need for fodder. The manure was undoubtedly used to fertilise the arable fields on the streamridges and the vegetable gardens in the settlements.

Fodder was gathered elsewhere. Depending on the period and length of time that livestock (cattle, sheep and horses) was stabled, fodder had a different composition and origin. If livestock was stabled during summer nights, water plants, grass and tree leaves could have been used as fodder. Since trees were scarce in the River Area during the Roman period, it is unlikely that livestock was fed with branches and leaves, as was the case in prehistory. In Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet, there were indications that water plants and grass were used as feed (Kooistra 2009, 442, 447). The indicators for water plants were found in wells from the Late Iron Age or Early Roman period, together with a large variety of grassland plants. These plant remains can be seen as fodder, but in that case this represents extra feeding of animals stabled in the summer (for whatever reason), since water plants are not very suitable for long-term storage. However, the possibility that the grassland plants and water plants in these wells come from manure cannot be excluded. In that case, the combination of plants provides information on pasture and not on collected fodder.

Roman authors mention barley (and oats) grown especially as horse feed. It is unlikely that these cereals were grown to feed the livestock in the settlements of Tiel-Passewaaij. The available area of streamridge was only just large enough in the heyday of the settlement to grow enough cereals for the inhabitants' consumption. Any surplus of cereals is more likely to have been sold (see also Vossen and Groot 2009).

Hay is fodder that can be stored for longer periods and serves to feed livestock during the winter. Rural communities normally slaughter or sell surplus animals in the autumn, to minimise the number of animals that had to be overwintered. Animals from the Roman period are similar in some respects to the cattle and horses that nowadays graze in nature reserves. These animals can survive the winter without any extra feeding, as long as the population density is not too high. When more animals have to be overwintered, especially in economies that produced a surplus or when population density is high, it may be necessary to store hay for the winter. The many storage buildings in the southern settlement in Tiel-Passewaaij, with a capacity for cereals that is larger than the available arable fields could supply, suggest that the inhabitants of Tiel-Passewaaij not only stored cereals, but also fodder. The large granaries can therefore be an indirect indication that herds of livestock were larger in the 2nd century. Since the streamridges were in use as arable land, the hay must have come from the flood basins.

Although no evidence for hay has yet been found in Roman settlements in the Dutch River Area, there are numerous indications for the use of humid to wet grasslands and reed lands as pasture for livestock. One of the most remarkable indications was found in Kesteren-De Woerd. Palynological analysis of mineralised manure from cattle or pig has demonstrated that the producer of the manure grazed in reed marshes or wet grasslands, in other words in the flood basins (Figs. 56 and 57). When the wild plants found in Tiel-Passewaaij, Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet and Kesteren-De Woerd are arranged in four categories – weeds, plants of water and marshes, plants of meadows and woodland plants – the high proportion of water and marsh plants is striking, especially in the latter two settlements (Fig. 58). This is all the more remarkable when we consider that the botanical material was collected in the settlement, where the category 'weeds' is usually overrepresented. It seems that, just as cereals, plants of marshes and meadows were also transported to the settlements, either as manure or as hay.

Figure 56 Figure 57 Figure 58

Figure 56: Hayland in the flood basin of the River Pripyat in Belarus. Photo L.I. Kooistra.
Figure 57: Arable fields on the highest part and grassland on the lowest part of the levee of the River Pripyat in Belarus. Photo L.I. Kooistra.
Figure 58: Bar graph showing the representation of four categories of plants in Tiel-Passewaaij (TP), Geldermalsen-Hondsgemet (GM) and Kesteren-De Woerd (KdW). Illustration Bert Brouwenstijn, ACVU.


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