Livestock Research for Rural Development 28 (11) 2016 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

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Performance of communal nursing cows supplemented with Acacia angusitissima hay in an on-farm feeding demonstration in Masvingo, Zimbabwe

J Gusha, I Tavengwa1, S Katsande, I P Zvinorova, S Ncube1, L Matarirano3, S Kagande4 and B Sibanda2

Department of Paraclinical Veterinary studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Zimbabwe, MP167, Mount Pleasant, Harare.
1 Makoholi Research Institute, P. Bag 9182, Masvingo, Zimbabwe.
2 Department of Animal Science and Rangeland Management, Lupane State University, P. Box Ac 255, Ascot , Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
3 World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), c/o Department of Research and Specialist Services, Agronomy Research Institute, Box Cy 594, Harare, Zimbabwe.
4 Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zimbabwe, MP167, Mount Pleasant, Harare.


Technology transfer and adoption is the major drawback in improving communal livelihoods. The use of Acacia angusitissima ; hay as a feed supplement is not new yet very few communal farmers have adopted and utilise this technology. In order to improve the rate of technology uptake, adoption and utilisation, an on-farm study was conducted in Zaka. The study was conducted on lactating cows owned by farmers in the dry season for over a period of three months. Twelve farmers with two lactating cows, each with four functional teats and in early stages of lactation were selected and randomly assigned to two treatments of Acacia angusitissima hay supplement and no supplement. The farmers were responsible for feeding, milking and recording the milk yields with the assistance of livestock extension workers in the area.

The results indicated that weight gain, milk yield, milk quality and income generated were significantly different (P<0.05). The farmers participated and observed that with Acacia angusitissima supplement more money could be raised and animals could survive the harsh dry season condition. Furthermore, the days in lactation were increased with protein supplements during the periods of quality feed deficit. We concluded that with more on-farm study, technology transfer, uptake and adoption may be improved thus improving animal performance.

Key words: browse, lactating, legume


Technology transfer and adoption is the major drawback in improving communal livelihoods (Zander et al 2013; Mapiye et al 2007). Research on browse legumes supplements have confirmed that performance and survivability of animals is improved during periods of critical feed shortages (Chigariro 2004; Maasdorp et al 2004). High milk yield, positive growth rate, reduced period to puberty and marketable size are some of the reported benefits of using browse legume hay in cattle (Nyoka et al 2004). Despite these positive results reported in different studies; these technologies and feeding methods are yet to be utilised by rural/communal farmers. Acacia angustissima (Mill) Kuntze is one of the browse legumes that have been used extensively in feeding research. It is high in crude protein (326g/kg), calcium and phosphorous than native grass species and crop residues commonly used by farmers to feed their livestock. Average NDF and ADF content differ markedly between A. angustissima accessions ranging from 189 to 417 g/kg). In addition, all acacia accessions have high free condensed tannin content which range from 98 to 180 g/kg and only minor amounts of tannin are in bound form (<2 g/kg) (McSweney et al 2005). Browse legume hay, harvested during the rainy season and conserved as dried leaf biomass can be used as a supplement to livestock subsisting on poor quality rangeland grasses. An on-station experiment concluded that A. Angusitissima hay improves dry matter intake, rate of degradation and rumen fractional outflow rates, microbial protein synthesis, growth rate and milk production (Gusha et al 2014).

However, despite the volume of literature on browse utilisation, rate of communities’ participation with regards to the use of these browse is still very low (Farrow 2014). On the other hand, animal production continues to suffer from nutritional challenges. There is low production in communal farming areas due to inadequate quality and quantity of feed for livestock (Katsande et al 2016). Therefore, an on-farm feeding demonstration was conducted with farmers and their livestock in order to motivate, initiate and promote farmer participation in browse legume supplementary feeding. The objective of the study was to train farmers on browse legume supplements utilisation, to evaluate performance of communal-owned and managed cows and income generation capacity following supplementation with A. Angusitissima leaf hay.

Figure 1. Harvesting by-products of an overgrown A. angustissima fodder bank in Zimbabwe Figure 2. Dry Acacia angustisimma leaves

Materials and methods

Site of the on-farm demonstration

The on-farm experiment was approved by the Department of Research and Specialist Services and experimental animal ethics committee. With the help of government Agriculture Extension Workers in Mutimwe village in Zaka, farmers were mobilised and a training workshop was conducted before the feeding programme begun. After the training, nurseries of browse legumes namely Leucaena leucocephala, Gliricidia sepium, Acacia angustissima and Calliandra calothyrsus were established in a community garden. All the farmers in the village volunteered to participate in the feeding trial.

Experimental diet preparation

Acacia angustissima (Mill) Kuntze was planted in a one hectare screening trial plot at Domboshawa training centre. The plants were planted at one metre intra row spacing and two metres inter row spacing. In the first three years of planting, the plot was weeded during the rainy season thereafter the plot was just mowed in summer and fire guards were prepared in April each year. The herbage was harvested from the fourth year by cutting the trees at 30 cm above the ground and then removing the biomass in October, February and April. The harvested material was air-dried under shade for a week and stored for dry season feeding. The dried hay was then packed in two small two kilogram bags which were distributed to farmers during the feeding period. Packaging into 2 kg bags was done to avoid overfeeding.

Animal and experimental design

A total of sixty seven lactating cows were brought forward by farmers. All the sixty seven cows were dewormed for internal parasites using Albex® (Albendazole) and dipping was done fortnightly with Triatix® (Amitraz) dip. Animals were selected for the trial based on the number of functional teats, stage of lactation and farmers with at least two lactating cows to have a none supplemented and supplemented cow in each kraal.

Twenty four Mashona-Brahman crossbred cows with an average of 47±11 day in milk and initial mean live weight of 402±14 were used in the study. The demonstration was laid out in completely randomised design. Treatments were randomly allocated to cows with each farmer having one animal on supplement and the other without supplement. Farmers were provided with calibrated five litre mugs for measuring milk yields. The demonstration was conducted over 12 weeks in the dry season from August to October. All cows were allowed to graze during the day and penned at night. Those animals on supplement were offered two kilograms of experimental diet once during milking at 0800 hours. Milk samples were collected fortnightly for milk quality analysis and all cows were weighed fortnightly at the communal dip tank.

Chemical composition analysis

Dry matter (DM) of all experimental diets was determined by drying 100 g samples of feed in a forced air oven at 60oC for 48 hours. Nitrogen content in the feed was analysed by Kjeldahl method according to A.O.A.C (1990). The determination of ash-free neutral detergent fibre (NDFom) was performed without sodium sulphite and expressed as residual ash according to Van Soest et al (1991), while the ash free acid detergent fibre (ADFom) was determined and expressed as residual of ash according to AOAC (1990). Total ash was obtained by igniting a dried sample in a muffle furnace at 600 oC for 24 hours, calcium and phosphorous were determined by the EDTA (Kaur 2007) and spectrophotometer (Danovaro 2009) methods, respectively. Condensed tannins were determined in the four legumes according to the method of Terrill et al (1992). Twenty millilitres samples of milk were collected in bottles containing Bromopol (2-bromo, 2-nitropropane, 1,3-diol + natamycin) preservative tablets to prevent spoilage before chemical analysis. The milk samples were analysed for lactose, protein, butterfat and total solids using the Bentley 2000 infrared milk analyser.

Income generation analysis

The cost of maintaining the plot and harvesting A. angusitissima per year was estimated to be one hundred and thirty united state dollars (US$ 130.00). The plot produced 5.2 tonnes of leaf biomass per year. This figure was used to calculate the cost biomass harvested. Economic analysis was conducted based on the following equations:

CMP = SI * SC 1

Where: CMP = cost of milk production, SI = Supplementary Intake in kilograms, SC = cost of supplementary feed (A. Angusitissima hay).

Then income generated was calculated as:

MI = MY * MP 2

Where: MI = income generated from milk sales, MY = milk yield, MP = milk price.

Statistical analysis

The data was analysed using the PROC MIXED procedure for repeated measures of SAS (SAS Institute Cary N.C, 2010) with initial weight as a covariate. The following model was used:

Yijk = μ + β1Inwt + Vij + T(ij) + (V*T)(ijk) + εij

Where: Yijk is response variable being (Milk yield, milk quality and fortnightly live weight changes); μ is overall mean common to all observations; β1Inwt is the initial weight as a covariate; T (ij) is effect of the ith treatment diet; (Supplemented and Not supplemented); V(ij) is the effect of the week; (V*T) (ijk) is the treatment and time interaction; and εij is the random error distributed as N ̴ (0;s2E).


Chemical composition

Nutrients composition results are shown in Table 1. Acacia angustissima had 217 grams of crude protein per kilogram dry matter. It is high in ADF and also has 63 g/kg dry matter of condensed tannins. The species had moderate to high levels of minerals of 7 and 21 g/kg for calcium and phosphorus respectively.

Table 1. Nutrient composition of A. Angusitissima leaf hay used in the study


Nutrient composition (g/kg DM)









A. angustissima hay









Animal performance

Figure 1 show that results of weight changes in supplemented and non-supplemented lactating cows. It was observed that the cows on supplement gained 9.2% while those with no supplements lost 4.7% live-weight. It was also observed that supplemented cows had twice higher milk yield than the non-supplemented group.

Figure 3. The rate of weight changes in kilograms during the feeding demonstration for nursing cows
during the dry season from August to October period in Zaka communal farming area.

Milk composition

The results on milk quality are displayed in Table 1. It was observed that the quality of milk were initially the same but variation which was not significantly different (P<0.05) was observed on protein, butter fat and lactose content in the first month of study. However, there was a significant difference in total solids percentage with animals on supplement having higher percentage than the group with no supplements. It was also observed in the second month and third month that all milk constituents varied significantly between the two treatments with the supplemented group having higher concentrations of protein, lactose, butter fat and total milk solids.

Table 2. The percentages of milk constituents as influence by feeding regime and quality of supplements


Protein contents

Butter fat


Total Solids




































AA supplemented with A. angusitissima and No is the group with no supplement.
Least squared means with different superscript under the same variable in the same row depict significant different at P<0.005.

Income generation

Figure 2 shows the amount of milk harvested from supplemented and non-supplemented cows as well as the potential revenue which could be raised. The results show that on average each farm supplementing a cow got two and half litres of milk higher than those with cows which were not supplemented. Also the cows on supplement generated two times more revenue than the group which did not receive the supplements. Therefore, a monthly supplemented cow had a potential to generate US$75 compared to less than $30 dollars from cows which were not supplemented.

Figure 4. The rate of milk yield changes and potential generated income with supplements of A. angusitissma hay during the dry season


Chemical composition

The CP content falls within the range of 145g/kg to 245g/kg reported by Mcsweney (2005). The leaves of A. Angusitissima had high nutrient contents that include crude protein (Halimani et al 2005; Mokoboki et al 2005) and essential amino acids (Ngwa et al 2002) that can effectively support livestock production. More essentially, the CP value for A. Angusitissima is above the acceptable range of 78-110g CP/kg DM (Mokoboki et al 2005) that is needed for maintenance and milk production. The foliage meets the normal requirements for Ca, P, Mg and S in ruminants and would satisfy the lower range of recommended requirements of trace elements depending on their bioavailability. The leaves showed relatively low ADF and NDF of 296g/kg and 332g/kg respectively compared to other accessions which have obtained 241±14g/kg (Ngya et al 2005). Therefore, browse leaves from Acacias could form good sources of CP and mineral supplements to ruminants.

Animal performance

The diet supported positive weight gain despite the fact that the study was done during the dry season when all other animals grazing on rangelands will be losing weight. Also demonstrated that A. Angusitissima supplement can curb weight loss thus improving animal performance and income generation capacity for communal farmers. The results concurred with findings of work done by Ajayi et al (2007) and Baloyi et al (2009) and Gusha et al (2014), where browse legumes improved animal performance and curb weight loss associated with the dry season.

Milk yield and quality

Higher milk yields were observed in supplemented group than the not supplemented group. The cows on supplement doubled the amount of milk produced thus showing the importance of supplementing livestock with a protein during period of protein deficit. Ngongoni et al (2006) reported that communal and smallholder dairy cows often experience short lactation period due to shortage of feed and that was also observed in this study where animals with no supplement continued to decrease milk production while their counterpart group improved milk yield. Days in milk are very few for communal lactating cows (Mapiye et al 2006) and that could be associated with shortage of feed as observed in this study. Therefore, supplementing cows increase days in milk and improved the quantity of milk produced. Also observed in this study, was the improvement in quality of milk produced with cows on supplements. That could be explained by the fact that high CP diet promote microbial production (Pathak 2008) and improve degradation and digestion efficiency (Yousuf et al 2007), thus increasing the supply of nutrients to the milk production processes (Jensen 1995). Supplementation with protein increases the quality of nutrients for milk synthesis, therefore improving milk quality (Chilliard et al 2007). The study proved that with protein supplements communal livestock can produce milk comparable to exotic breed in quality.

Income generation

The farmers with cows on supplements had more milk and the income generation capacity doubled. The results also proved that with adequate protein supplement, poverty could be reduced as reported by Gusha et al (2014). Chakoma (2012) reported that utilisation of forages could improve communities livelihood as proved by the amount of milk harvested from this study and the potential income generated.



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Received 13 August 2016; Accepted 1 October 2016; Published 1 November 2016

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