Livestock Research for Rural Development 25 (8) 2013 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Ruminant livestock production and quality of pastures in the communal grazing land of semi arid central Tanzania

F B C Njau, J Lwelamira and C Hyandye

Institute of Rural Development Planning
Dodoma, Tanzania


Assessment of Ruminant livestock production and quality of pastures in communal grazing land ofsemi-arid central Tanzania was carried out in Chololo village in May 2012. The study aimed at estimating communal grazing land area; access ruminant animals kept; identify its pasture species composition and nutritive value. Village communal grazing land was identified through village resource mapping achieved by using Participatory Geographical Information System (PGIS). A reconnaissance survey of the entire grazing site was conducted to get familiarized with the site as well as existing plant communities. Based on the information gathered, various available key species were identified and listed. A thorough botanical composition assessment was conducted in 20 acres of village forest reserve where natural pastures are harvested and conserved for use by livestock during the dry season. Arbitrary transect lines were drawn whereby a total of 20 quadrants of 0.5m2were randomly placed along the arbitrary drawn transect lines across the site after every 20 steps to avoid bias. At each point all available plants falling within the quadrant area, were harvested at ground level, identified and hand-sorted by species or species groups, counted and number of each species or species group recorded on the field records sheet for species botanical composition assessment. Each harvested pasture species was kept in a paper bag for air drying. For nutritive value analysis, the air dried samples were submitted to the Sokoine University of Agriculture Morogoro, Animal Science Laboratory for analysis. The forage material were analyzed for DDry Matter (DM), Crude Protein (CP), Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) and Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF). They were also analyzed for In vitro Dry Matter (DM) and Organic Matter (OM) Digestibility.Other primary data were collected through household interviews of almost 10% of village household (1,111). Secondary data were collected from the village office.

The dominant pasture specie in the forest reserve area was Aristida adscensionis. Results in chemical analysis showed a very low feeding value of the forages in the study site. High values of structural constituents (ADF and NDF), in vitro dry matter digestibility (INVDMD) and chemical composition of the sampled species, indicate that they have a low nutritive value. The study recommend that the community should be enlightened on importance of having grazing plan and to plant adaptable grass and legume species to improve the quality in the communal grazing areas.

Key words: ruminant livestock, nutritive value, communal grazing land


In Tanzania, traditional ruminant livestock sector is the most important sector in meeting the increasing demand of milk and meet consumed locally. This sector form 99% of total ruminant livestock. In total Tanzania has about 18.5 million cattle, 13.5 million goats, 3.6 million sheep. Only 1% of ruminant livestock are found in big ranches and dairy farms (URT 2006). The production potential of traditional ruminant livestock is generally low mainly due to its low genetic potential in terms of milk and meet. All these livestock depend on natural pastures in the rangelands which cover 74% of the total land area of about 88.6 million hectors. These natural pastures are known to have low productivity and nutritive value. This is because the natural pastures in the communal grazing land grow rapidly and achieve the maximum quality quickly. Therefore the availability and quality of forages for livestock production remains high for a short period of rainy season and low in the long dry season (Mwilawa, et al 1998). In addition to low genetic potential, low quantity and quality of forages accelerate the problem of low productivity of traditional ruminant livestock in the country. After observing this problem Pastoralists and Agropastoralists in Tanzania have developed forage conservation measures in which they set a portion of their grazing land during the wet season so that is grazed during the dry season. The Gogo tribe in Dodoma they call them Milaga, the Masaai call them Olopololi/Alalili and Ngitili for Sukuma tribe. Despite this traditional effort, study conducted by Mwilawa et al (2008) showed that the forages conserved in form of Milanga, Olopoli and Ngitiri still have low quality and quantity especially during the dry season. Hence they cannot meet the animal requirement in terms of energy and protein for maintenance and production for ruminant animals and therefore recommend incorporation of improved forage materials (grasses, legumes and tree and shrub forage species) that can improve dry matter yields and nutritional requirements thought the year.

Chololo village in Central Tanzania falls under the same system, in craving for improved innovations as a mitigation strategy against the effects of climate change in the area, the village community has decided and agreed to set aside 20 acres of land for the purpose of conservation and application of improved innovations recommended by Mwilawa et al (2008) and others to be introduced. However, by mere observations of the indicators, it appears that the area was primarily under extensive and continuous crop cultivation which has led to the exhaustion of the soils thus giving chance to the invasion of Aristida adscensionis, Rhynchelytrum repens/ roseum and numerous other species of both grasses and forbs or shrubs to colonize the area. This has led to the disappearance of native and probably more acceptable forages in the area. Therefore, before the introduction of the improved innovations, this study conducted a thorough species composition assessment of the site as a base line. Specifically this paper focused on identification of communal grazing area through village resource map, assess the ruminant animals kept, determine the botanical composition and pasture nutritive value in the village communal grazing lands. This information will act as baseline for improving pastures under communal grazing lands.


Description of the study area

The study was carried out in Chololo village of Dodoma Municipal District in semi - arid central Tanzania. The village lies between GPS S06.19733 and E 035.73680 covering an area of 63,908,814 km2. Chololo village as a whole is characterized by low precipitation, rough topography and many shallow, rocky and saline sites. It lies under and within the extensive mountain ranges where communal grazing is dominant and is done on a continuous basis often throughout the year resulting into overgrazed areas (Chololo elderly and livestock herders hinted on this). Agricultural activities are mainly staple food and cash crops production including;- Millets, Sorghum, Maize, Legumes, Groundnuts, Bambara nuts, Sunflower and other minor crops. These are carried out on the flat terrain lying under the mountain ranges and also on hilly sites. Other cash earning activities include charcoal burning, timber and fire wood gathering are also done in the area.

Chololo Village Resources Mapping

Prior to determination of biological composition of pasture lands, a village resources map was produced. The village resource mapping was achieved by using Participatory Geographical Information System Mapping (PGIS). In this method the village representatives involving village Chairperson, Chololo Primary School teachers and 6 sub-village chairpersons were involved in sketch mapping and geo-coded transect walk. Flip charts and marker pens were used to draw a rough village resource map identifying the names of resources, boundaries and locations. During Geo-coded transect walk, GPS receiver Garmin GPSmap76S was used to document and record the coordinates of the village resources. Google earth was used in combination with GPS coordinates from the field to complete the exercise of collecting coordinates of other features which were not captured or were inaccessible(e.g. mountain tops). Village and sub-village boundaries were plotted using coordinates from the field and Google Earth then linear features such as roads; railway and mountain tops were marked. From the village resource map, a communal grazing land was identified.

Reconnaissance survey and botanical composition assessment

A reconnaissance survey of the entire grazing land was conducted to get familiarized with the site as well as existing plant communities, and also to be able to visually assess the production potential, the plant density, cover and grazing potential of the site. During this exercise one experienced farmer from the area accompanied the evaluation group. She/he was asked about the names of naturally occurring useful plant species in local language (Kigogo), their season of use, location and other aspects of their availability, category of animals fed and the trend in general. Based on the information gathered, various available key species were identified and listed and an area where a thorough botanical composition assessment was conducted identified. This was an area that has been purposely demarcated as a site for conservation and proper application of improved innovations.

Furthermore, samples for laboratory determination of available forage resources were processed accordingly for submission to the laboratory for chemical analysis at Sokoine University of Agriculture. During the assessment, some ground rules regarding which plants should be included or excluded while sampling were agreed upon to govern implementation of the task. Arbitrary transect lines were drawn and a 0.5m2 quadrant used. A total of 20 quadrants were randomly placed along the arbitrary drawn transect lines across the site. Placement from each quadrant to the other was done after every 20 steps to avoid bias. Focus was on few key species that were dominant and the remaining species of interest were allocated to broad groups based on either morphological characteristics or functional features (e.g. perennial forage grasses or annual as trace grasses and or trace forbs). Because samples were also needed for laboratory chemical composition analyses, at each point all available plants falling within the quadrant area, were harvested at ground level as per the agreed ground rules, identified and hand-sorted by species or species groups, counted and number of each species or species group recorded on the field records sheet for species botanical composition assessment.

Botanical composition (species composition) was calculated by expressing the proportion of each species relative to the value determined for all species or the entire site from the formula:-

Analysis of Nutritive Value of Identified Pastures

The forage samples collected during botanical composition assessment were air dried, packaged and submitted to Sokoine University of Agriculture Morogoro, Animal Science Laboratory for nutritive value analysis. The forage materials were analyzed for Dry Matter (DM), Ash, Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF) and Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) according to procedures described by AOAC (1990) and Van Soest, Robertson and Lewis (1991), respectively. Crude protein (CP) was determined using a semi-automated Kjetech procedure. Forages were also analyzed for In vitro Dry Matter (DM) and Organic Matter (OM) Digestibility using Tilley and Terry (1963) procedure.

Household and livestock data collection

Secondary data on livestock number was collected from Chololo village office. Household primary data was collected using household questionnaire where by the head of households were interviewed. Out of a total of 1,111 households in the village,10% of the total households were selected at random for interview. Data collected from household included households keeping ruminant livestock, types of ruminant breeds kept, average cow milk production and where the livestock keepers graze their ruminant livestock.

Data processing and analysis

In case of a village map ArcGIS 9.2 and ArcView 3.3 software were used to input the coordinates from GPS and Google Earth facility. Experts knowledge on spatial data analysis, processing, cartography and creativity was used to harness GIS software capabilities so as to process field data and overlay shapefiles and achieve the final required Chololo village resources map and areas of different resources. Data for botanical composition assessment and nutritive value analysis from Animal Science laboratory (Sokoine University of Agriculture) was processed and analyzed using Ms-Excel computer programme. Primary data from interview were edited, coded, entered and analyzed using computer programme of Statistical package for Social Science (SPSS) software version 11.5. Descriptive statistics were run to give frequencies and percentages.

Results and Discussion

Communal grazing area

Chololo village occupies a total area of 6,397.25 ha of which 5,334.37 ha (83.38%) is a communal grazing land. Figure.1 shows a map of Chololo village with different land uses. Shrub land and mountain lands constitute 75.76% and 23.86% of the communal grazing land respectively. Land used for crop production and settlement covers 819.4ha (12.81%) of the total village land. Land for other uses including bare land and swamps occupy 232.6ha (3.64%). The village has two planted forest which covers 10.8ha (0.17%) of the total village land. Land under crop production and planted forest provide feed for livestock during the dry season. In total the village occupies 6,397.25 ha of land.

Figure 1: Chololo village resource map showing different land uses
Proportion of household keeping ruminant livestock in Chololo village

Livestock keeping is the second economic activities in Tanzania. It contributes to national and household food supply, converts rangelands resources into products suitable for human consumption and is a source of cash incomes and an inflation free store of value. Livestock production provides about 30% of the Agricultural GDP.Out of the sub sector's contribution to GDP, about 40% originates from beef production, 30% from milk production and another 30% from poultry and other small livestock production (URT 2001).

Similarly in Chololo village livestock keeping is the second economic activity. In the village 80.7% of households keep all types of ruminant livestock species available (Table 1). This implies that large number of livestock can survive in the area and one household can manage to take care all of them. Local goat is the only species kept in many household (Table 1) where by half (50%) of household keep them with an average of about 14.9 goats per household in the village. Generally in Tanzania sheep and goats play an important role in ensuring sustainable food security for rural and urban dwellers (Chenyambuga et al 2006). They also provide meat, milk, skins, manure and also serve as an investment that can be easily converted into cash when needs arise (Njombe 1993). Socially they are important in exchange of gifts, in paying bride prizes and are used for sacrifices in religious and other communal obligations (Komwihangilo et al 2005a). Cattle are the second ruminant livestock kept by 46.5% of household in Chololo village with an average of 8.7 cattle per household. They are used as source of milk, meet, money, draft power, hides and farm yard manure. They are also used to pay bride prize and traditional and religious sacrifices. Few people in Chololo village prefer to keep sheep.Sheep are kept by only 13.2% of the households at an average of 6.3 sheep per household.

Table 1: Proportion of households keeping ruminants livestock species




Average number













More than 1 species




Note: Table 1 represents multiple responses

Breeds of ruminant livestock kept in Chololo village

Local breeds of livestock accounts for 89% of the total livestock kept in Chololo village (Table 2). These breeds have low genetic potential but have high tolerance to diseases and harsh environment.

Table 2: Types of breeds of ruminant livestock species kept (n=92)

Livestock species



Local breeds



Both local and improved breeds






Various studies have shown that local breeds of goats have low growth rate of 5-7g/day (Pyne, 1990), small mature size of 20 – 25kg (NEI 1999) and low carcass weight of 6 to 13kg (Chenyambuga et al 2004). They also have low milk production potentials such that they seldom reach production levels beyond the need of their kids. For cattle the most common breed of cattle kept in Chololo village is local breed known as Tanzania Short Horn Zebu (TSZ). This is the breed which has low genetic potential in terms of milk production; growth rate and carcass yield but have high tolerance in diseases and harsh condition. Komwihangilo et al (2009) reported TSZ to have low birth weight (10-15kg), weaning weight (20-35kg) long age of first mating 3-4 years, calving interval (19-32 months), low milk yield (1-2 liters) per day and short lactation length (239 days). Despite their low production coefficients, 97% and of all beef and 87% of all milk produced in the country are from the indigenous herd. Some few (10.1%) livestock keepers in Chololo village keep improved cattle and goats. Improved cattle breeds have relatively high growth rate, high milk production but have low tolerance to diseases and harsh condition and therefore need much care than local breeds. In Mtumba village of semi - arid central Tanzania, improved breed of Mpwapwa cattle and their crosses have shown high production potential than local Tanzania Shorthorn Zebu (Komwihangilo et al 2009). Mpwapwa breed have been able to have birth weight of 20-26kg, weaning weight of 50-60kg, age at first mating is 2 years, calving interval of 12-18 months, milk yield of 4-6 liters a day and lactation length of 283 days. The crossbreeds of Mpwapwa bull and TSZ cow have shown good performance than the local TSZ under similar environment.

Number of ruminant livestock in the village

Communal grazing land in Chololo village is used by a number of ruminant livestocks namely goats, cattle,sheep and (See Table 3).

Table 3: Number of ruminant livestock in Chololo village

Ruminant livestock

Total ruminant


Average Ruminants per Household





















On average goat represent 55% of the total ruminant population( 2,887 out of 5,246) listed in Table 2. With 1,111 households in the village each household can have 2.59 goats and 1.92 cattle or in total each household can have 4.43 ruminant livestock.This shows the importance of goats and cattle over other ruminants (sheep and donkeys). Similar observation was noted by Komwihangilo et al (2012) in Manyoni and Mpwapwa district villages. Chololo village is one of the villages with high number of ruminant livestock (5,246) in central Tanzania. Villages with high number of ruminants livetock than Chololo were only Chunyu (5,368) and Iyenge (7,839) in Mpwapwa district and Sanjaranda (6,028) in Manyoni district (Komwihangilo et al 2012). The recommended carrying capacity in the semi arid range land is 15 – 20 acres per livestock Unit (LSU). This is equivalent of 6 - 8ha per LSU. An LSU is equivalent to a cow weighing 250 kg (Jonsson et al 1993 as cited by Tobias 2001).

Taking into account the number of ruminants(5,246) in the village, carrying capacity of the communal grazing land (5,334.37ha) is 1.02 ha/livestock. With the current number of ruminant livestock in Chololo village it is clear that the existing number of livestock superse the recommended carrying capacity and hence overgrazing and land degradation can not be avoided.

Average milk per cow per day

Milk production potential for cattle kept in Chololo village is low (Table 4). Data show that large numbers of livestock keepers (81.5%) produce 1-2 liters. These livestock keepers are mainly those keeping Tanzania Short Horn Zebu that have low milk production potential. Komwihangilo et al (2009) reported almost similar milk production yield of TSZ in Mtumba village in semi - arid area of Dodoma. Other livestock keepers (18.5%) can get milk yield of 5-7 liters per cow per day. Majority of these livestock keepers are those owning crossbreeds and selected TSZ. Results reported by Komwihangilo et al (2009) show that cross breeds of TSZ and Mpwapwa breed can produce up to 4 liters per day. Crosses of other exotic breeds of cattle such Friesian and Ayrshire can yield up to 10 liters per day in semi-arid areas.

Table 4: Average milk per cow per day

Milk yield (liters)















Average milk yield  = 1.79 liters

Livestock grazing areas

Natural pastures in semi-arid central including Dodoma Region, are characterized by very rapid growth during the short rainy season, resulting in early maturity and rapid deterioration in nutritive value as the dry season sets in. For that reason, for a time of six to nine months of the year, feeds accessible to the livestock are in little supply and whatever is available is of very low quality and quantity. With the existing land tenure system, the livestock compete for the available pasture, such a system of grassland utilization could lead to low livestock productivity. Table 4 shows that village communal land is the main livestock grazing areas in the village. This answer was given by 63.1% of respondents.

Table 5: Livestock grazing areas used by Chololo villagers

Grazing area



Village communal land



Own farm land



Village communal land and own farm land



Nearby village






Zero grazing






Communal grazing is dominant under and within the extensive mountain ranges and shrub area which covers an area of 5,334.37ha. All ruminants (2,131 cattle, 2,887 goats and 211 sheep) depend on these area for grazing which is done on a continuous basis often throughout the year, year to year (Chololo elderly and livestock herders hinted on this) thence exhibiting a lot of overgrazing of the area. Overgrazing inhibits the growth of good pastures and hence the need of grazing plan or controlled grazing. Grazing in crop land is done after the harvest from June up to October. During the cropping season grazing is completely done within the mountain ranges shrub area.

Botanical composition

Individual species listed, counted as well as percentage species compositions are presented in Table 6. Calculations for botanical composition were based on the formula (see Equation 1). The table shows that Aristida adscensionis and Rhynchelytrum repens were commonly available at lower and middle elevations where cultivation and herding had been on a continuous basis. It is evident that despite the presence of other species, and the grazing animals which utilizes the area on a continuous basis, still Aristida adscensionis dominated the stand indicating that it is a less palatable and not a readily accepted forage species by the grazing animals especially when mature.

Table 6: Individual species listing and count

Plant category Species listing

Individual Speciescount


Aristida adscensionis



Dactyloctenium aegypticum



Rhynchelytrum repens



Digitaria scalarum



Cynodon nlemfuensis



Eragrostis tenuifolia



Urochloa panicoides



Dichanthium insculpta



Trace grasses



Trace forbs






The fact is that as it matures the produced seeds and awns become brittle and sharp a feature that repel grazing animals from utilizing it thus pushing it into an almost pure stand. Results in table5 clearly show that the population of Aristida adscensionis, Rhynchelytrum repens, Dactyloctenium aegpticum and some forbs particularly Leucas martinicensis are on the increase at the expense of others. This suggests that the species which are on the increase are those that are less liked by the animals feeding on them hence not disturbed.

Result shows that the frequency of Aristida adscensionis was the highest in the entire grazing area, and was high mainly on areas where continuous cultivation and continuous grazing were a major practice, thus suggesting that there was some kind of land over use in the study area. This is in line with the past work (Skerman and Riveros 1990) that has categorized Aristida as the first pioneer to inhabit disturbed sites in both low and high rainfall belts. The species is widely described as being predominant in drier parts where continuous heavy grazing with concomitant overgrazing has been practiced. Usually plants are affected differently upon grazing. Plants that are most liked by grazing animals are attacked (grazed) first while the less liked or less palatable ones are often not grazed. Aristida adscensionis has been described by Wigg et al (1973) as being a late flowering and an unpalatable annual species in the United Republic of Tanzania. Observations made from a quick walk (reconnaissance) across the grazing hilly sites together with the current results on botanical composition assessment, show that animals in Chololo are allowed a greater opportunity to graze selectively, thus leading to a thinning out of the more preferred plants or plant parts and a predominance of those that are less desirable. Also the continued mismanagement of the soils through man-made activities such as continuous cultivation and continuous grazing coupled with the land terrain have given room to the common pioneering plant species such Aristida adscensionis and a few others to easily invade and colonize the area.

Aristida, Rhynchelytrum, Dactyloctenium and undesirable forbs have dominated the site. These are true indicators of a barren, exhausted or waste land. This effect is more pronounced in the entire Chololo area and other surrounding villages with similar characteristics and management practices simply because land use principles coupled with principles of crop husbandry have not been put into practice. Livestock management on range, crop husbandry and other soil management practices are lacking. Indications also show that grazing is definitely done during the period of active plant growth thus leading to the disappearance or depletion of the more preferred plant species. Kinds and amounts of standing plants in the area easily suggest the kind of an existing grazing land and determine its productivity. Thus the presence or absence of certain plants easily tells how the area has been used and what should be done to maintain it.

Several and various plants are found on the Chololo hilly and rocky grazing land. Each is a different species, like;- Panicums, Eragrostis, Heteropogon, dichanthium for the grasses and Mdejedeje (Acacia seyal), Mkole/Ngwelu (Grewia bicolor/Grewia fallax), Mjiha (Dalbergia nitidula), Mtumba (Boscia schifolia), Msele (Delonix elata), Mswaga (Senna singuieana) in the case of shrubs or woody plants (trees) and many more all which are utilized in one way or the other. Fears are that if this situation will be allowed to continue with no any management interventions taken to curb it, there is a danger of converting the whole Chololo area into an unmanageable site ecologically.Here the principle of take half and leave half needs to be deployed simply because when vegetation is closely grazed also the roots are reduced. And in unfavorable weather conditions such as extended drought, heavily defoliated species are more affected as is the current phenomenon in Chololo.

Chemical and structural composition

Nutritive value of pasture species in Chololo village are presented in Table 7. Results showed that Dry Matter (DM) content of all grasses ranged from 94.03% (Dactyloctenium aegypticum) to 95.29% (Cynodon nlemfuensis). Crude Protein (CP) ranged between 2.96% (Dactyloctenium aegypticum) to 11.46% (Trace Forbs) with the average of 5.43%. The average CP of 5% in pastures is just enough to meet the minimum nutrient requirements for grazing animals (Leng, 1990). Komwihangilo et al. (2005) indicated that the tropical contain 20 50g kg-1 CP in DM and do not meet the minimum CP requirements of 80g kg-1 DM for minimum microbial function. Values of in vitro Dry Matter and Organic matter digestibility varied from 35.71% (Dactyloctenium aegypticum) to 49.53% (trace forbs)

High values of structural constituents (ADF and NDF), low in vitro dry matter digestibility (INVDMD) and chemical composition of the sampled species, indicate that they have a low digestibility thus suggesting that no matter how many hours the animals are allowed free grazing on these forages, still there will be no realized benefits from animals feeding on them. This is because even the little nutrients available in these species are not readily available to the grazing animal for the intended purpose because of the induced low palatability which normally affects the intake. The results obtained in this study are in line with the observations made by Shem et al (1999) and Mwilawa et al (2008) for tropical pasture.

Table 7: Nutritive value of pasture species in Chololo eco-village

Species name







Aristida adscensionis







Rhyncherytrum repens







Dactyloctenium aegypticum







Trace grasses







Trace forbs







Other forbs







Dichanthium insculpta







Digitaria scalarum







Cynodon nlemfuesis







Eragrostis tenuifolia







Urochloa panicoides














This indicates that, as the plant matures, there is a tendency of the structural constituents concentration to be on the increase at the expense of other valuable aspects including palatability and digestibility of such forages. Thus, to be able to maintain the Chololo animals (ruminants) productive, calls for a high level of supplementation back up, which is normally a burden and less practical under peasantry environment. Therefore incorporating browse tree legumes and shrubs foliage which have high CP content in reserved grazing area could increase the quality of the forage/pasture available.

Conclusion and Recommendations


This study is funded by European Union through Global Climate Change Alliance for which authors are grateful.


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Received 13 May 2013; Accepted 13 July 2013; Published 1 August 2013

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