Productivity of four fodder tree species, their nutritional value and potential role in ruminant production in Eastern Botswana

Walker, Keitirele Patricia (2007-12)

Thesis (PhD (Forest and Wood Science))—University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


Sustainable livestock production in semi-arid Botswana could be improved through tree planting on-farm to provide much needed protein and shade. Such action can be encouraged if the growth, productivity, nutritional value of trees and their contribution to mass gain of livestock are known.. A study at Malotwana investigated two indigenous species, Acacia galpinii and Faidherbia albida, and two exotic species, Leucaena diversifolia and L. leucocephala, at three spacings in a randomised complete block design replicated five times. The three spacings represented 400, 317 and 241 trees per hectare. The study was conducted over 6.5 years. Indigenous trees were sampled biennially and exotics annually to evaluate crown width, height, stem diameter, stem number and stem volume index. Complete plant harvesting of exotic trees at 2.5, 4.5 and 6.5 years evaluated agroforestry production. Leaves from all four species and pods of exotic species were analysed for chemical composition. Two groups of eight lambs were balanced for mass at selection for an on-farm feeding trial. Browse from exotic trees, comprising a 2:1 ratio of pods to leaves, was fed at 30% as supplement to hay to one group whose mean mass was contrasted with that of the control group fed sorghum bran at 30%. A. galpinii was a promising species, adaptable to planting away from its origin. Its crown width ranged from 5.86 m in high density plots to 6.08 m at low density and was significantly different among stands (p = 0.0406) at 6.5 years. Diameter at breast height (dbh) was significantly different among stands aged 6.5 years (p = 0.0003) and ranged between 10.38 cm at high density to 12.48 cm in low density plots, demonstrating a capacity to provide both shade and poles on-farm. At 4.5 years, F. albida attained a mean height of 4.5 m and 4.5 cm in dbh but suffered 67% mortality during a severe drought. Annual fodder production of 0.647 and 0.996 metric tonnes ha-1 for leaves and pods of L. diversifolia and 1.237 and 1.431 for L. leucocephala was recorded in years of average rainfall. Yields of 0.3 and 0.59 metric tonnes ha-1 were recorded for both species in the driest year. Equally good agroforestry production was obtained from both low and high density stands suggesting that low density plantings, which foster higher plant survival and reduce disease incidence, are best suited to the semi-arid conditions of Botswana. The crude protein of leaves ranged between 16.26 (L. diversifolia) and 25.25% (F. albida). They were highly digestible with more than twice the calcium content livestock require. Crude protein and digestibility measures were significantly different among leaves and varied significantly at different spacings (p<0.0001). Pods of the exotic species contained significantly more protein than the leaves (p<0.0001). Lambs supplemented with browse gained 102.33 g per animal per day while the control group gained 83.95 g. There were significant differences between groups during growth (p<0.05). Growing of A. galpinii, complemented with L. diversifolia and L. leucocephala, can supply short and long term feed, and greatly enhance livestock production while diversifying farm feed sources

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