Livestock Research for Rural Development 30 (7) 2018 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

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Feed intake, feed digestibility and live weight gain of male Bali cattle fed different combinations of Leucaena leucocephala and maize stover under farm conditions in Timor Leste

Walter Oliveira Soares, I Gde Ekaputra Gunartha1, Marthen L Mullik2, Yusuf A Sutaryono3 and Dahlanuddin3

Postgraduate Study Program, University of Mataram, Lombok, NTB, Indonesia
1 Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mataram, Lombok, NTB, Indonesia
2 Faculty of Animal Science, University of Nusa Cendana, Kupang, Indonesia
3 Faculty of Animal Science, University of Mataram, Lombok, NTB, Indonesia


Leucaena planting on private land is increasing due to declining carrying capacity of native pastures in Timor Leste, and feeding 100% leucaena to cattle have started to be a common practice. However, feeding 100% leucaena for cattle fattening may not be economical, therefore it should be combined with crop residues such as maize stover, the most commonly available energy source in Timor Leste. The aim of this experiment was to determine feed intake, feed digestibility, rumen ammonia concentration and live weight gain of fattening Bali bulls feed different combinations of leucaena and maize stover. 12 male Bali cattle were allocated based on body weight into three treatment groups and each group fed either 100% leucaena, 75% leucaena and 25% maize stover or 50% leucaena and 50% maize stover.

Feed intake (g OM/kg BW) was significantly higher in the bulls fed 100% leucaena compared to those fed 75% leucaena and 25% maize stover or 50% leucaena and 50% leucaena and 50% maize stover (26.81.1, 24.91.2 and 22.60.2 respectively). Digestibility of organic matter did not differ significantly with declining level of leucaena in the diet (60.61.6%, 58.82.4% and 53.110.2% for diets with 100%, 75% and 50% leucaena respectively). Rumen ammonia concentrations significantly decreased with decreasing level of leucaena in the diet (22233, 1695 and 15724 mg N/L respectively). Live weight gain (kg/d) was significantly higher in bulls consuming 100% leucaena (0.500.08) than those fed 75% (0.460.07) and 50% leucaena (0.390.05). The lowest live weight gain recorded in this experiment was higher than the 0.2 kg/d for growing bulls fed grass only (Dahlanuddin et al 2012). Feed conversion ratio was lower (6.80.6 kg DMI/kg ADG) when maize stover was fed at 50% of diet, compared to 6.5 0.6 and 6.2 0.7 for the bulls fed 100% Leucaena and 75% Leucaena + 25% maize stover respectively. The minimum level of leucaena inclusion needed in the leucaena: maize stover combinations was 55% allowing up to 45% maize stover to gain a moderate growth rate.

Keywords: legumes, native pastures, rumen ammonia, tree foliage, weed infestation


More than 70% of cattle in Timor Leste are kept under extensive system, utilizing more than 200,000 ha of native pastures (Da Cruz 2003; Soares et al 2010). However, most of the native pasture areas have been progressively invaded by weeds particularly Chlromolaena odorata, Lantana camara and Jatropha sp resulting in declining supply and quality of feeds available for cattle. To overcome this problem, a leucaena based cut and carry feeding system has been introduced in Timor Leste since 2011 and cattle fattening based on leucaena has started to become a common practice in Timor Leste (Dahlanuddin et al 2013). Most farmers fed leucaena as the sole diet, and this is a waste of high protein forage so it should be supplemented with energy or fibre source.

Energy rich supplements such as maize and cassava are highly available but not feasible to be used as supplement for cattle fattening because they are the staple foods of Timor Leste people. Energy rich agricultural byproducts such as rice bran is limited in availability because rice production in Timor Leste is very small. The most feasible energy supplement for cattle is crop residues such as rice straw and maize stover.

Maize stover is a local resource that is readily available as a supplement to leucaena because maize and Leucaena are often planted on the same plot in alley cropping system. Leucaena is a tree legume that provides high level of protein (contains around 25% crude protein) and essential nutrients, and resistant to drought (Panjaitan et al 2013), while maize stover provides fiber as energy source (Bunyamin et al 2013) to optimally use excess nitrogen from the leucaena. There is no information available on growth rate of cattle fed different proportions of leucaena and maize stover that can be used as a reference by farmers in Timor Leste. The objective of this experiment was to determine the optimum proportion of leucaena and maize stover that promotes high growth rate of Bali cattle ( Bos javanicus) ) under farm conditions in Timor Leste.

Materials and methods

This study conducted for 15 weeks during October 2015 to January 2016, at Agriculture Research Center, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Timor Leste, which is located in Lequica District (Sub district of Maubara, Guruleur Village). In this experiment, twelve young Bali bulls were grouped based on live weight (LW), and placed in individual pens. The individual pens have closed in barriers between them to restrict movement of urine and feces between pens to facilitate total fecal collection. Animals were allocated into three different treatment groups (A, B and C).

Group A was fed 100% Leucaena (23.9%DM, 25.2% CP and 13.4% CF), while group B and C were given leucaena and maize strover (92.0% DM, 3.1% CP and 34.6% CF) with the Leucaena:maize stover proportions of 75:25 (%w/w); and 50:50 (%w/w) respectively. Data collected include dry matter intake (DMI), organic matter intake (OMI), water intake (WI), rumen pH and ammonia (NH 3) concentrations, changes in body condition score (BCS), chest girth, wither height and body length, average daily gain (ADG) and feed conversion ratio (FCR).

Samples of rumen fluid was taken using stomach tube on the last day of the digestibility trial. Rumen fluid was acidified with H2SO 4 to drop the pH to 3.0 or lower, and then kept in freezer for determination of NH3 concentration. Concentration of NH 3 was measured using steam distillation method. Data were analysed using Randomized Completely Block Design. Data analyses were done using GenStat.12 Edition. T The optimum level of leucaena was determined using the regression of the second rank polynomial (Goedhart and Jac 2009).

Result and discussion

Feed intake, water intake and dry matter digestibility

Data on feed intake, water intake and dry matter digestibility are provided in Table 1. Feed intake declined with the inclusions of maize stover in the diet. The DMI animals fed 50% leucaena + 50% maize stover (24.6 1.27 g/kg LW) was significantly lower than those fed 100% leucaena (28.9 1.15 g/kg LW) or those fed 75% Leucaena +25% maize stover (26.9 1.38 g/kg LW)). The organic matter intake significantly reduced with the replacement of leucaena with both 25% and 50% maize stover. The mean DMI for group A in this experiment was similar to the data reported by Dahlanuddin et al (2014), in which the DMI was 29.3 g/kg LW for male Bali cattle fed the same diet of 100% leucaena.

Table 1. Dry matter intake (DMI), organic matter intake (OMI), water intake (WI), rumen ammonia (NH3N), rumen pH, dry matter digestibility (DMD) and organic matter digestibility (OMD) of male Bali cattle fed 100% leucaena (A), 75% Leucaena+25% maize stover (B) and 50% leucaena + 50% maize stover (C).





DMI, g/kg LW/d

28.9 1.1a

26.9 1.4a

24.6 1.3b

OMI, g/kg LW/d




WI, g/kg LW/d




NH3N, mg/L

222 33a

169 5b

157 24c

Rumen pH

7.2 0.1a

7.4 0.1b

7.2 0.1b

DMD, %

58.2 1.8

57.0 2.3

51.3 10.7

OMD, %




It was expected that water intake would increase with increasing level of maize stover in the diet to meet water requirement for digestion, but the water intake did not differ significantly between treatments. The effect of water content in the feeds was probably compensated by the effect of nitrogen levels in the diets. The water intake of the animals fed 100% Leucaena (84 g/kg LW/day) was lower than the value of 136 g/kg LW/day for the same diet reported by Dahlanuddin et al (2014). This is probably because of the drinking water provided in this experiment (by buckets three times a day) was in fact not ad libitum.

Dry matter and organic matter digestibility did not significantly different between treatments. It was different from the result reported by Panjaitan et al (2013), which stated that supplemented leucaena on either low quality basal diet or crop residue could increase feed intake and digestibility. This was probably caused by the high variation (standard error) of digestibility values especially for animals in group C.

Rumen ammonia (NH3) concentration is an indicator of nitrogen sufficiency in the rumen. It is determined by the protein content of feed consumed, degradability of feed, duration of feed transit and pH of rumen fluid (Moante et al 2004). Synthesis of microbial protein is strongly influenced by the availability of NH3 and the energy of fermentation result. Table 2 shows that the highest concentration was recorded in Group A, followed by the both of Group B and Group C. The rumen ammonia concentration in the animals fed 100% Leucaena was still below the upper limit, while the ammonia concentration of the animals consuming the highest level of maize stover was well above the minimum level of the normal rumen ammonia in the rumen (50-250 mg NH3N/L; Satter and Slyter 1974). As a comparison, Pamungkas et al (2008) reported that Bali cattle offered leucaena as single diet gave the highest NH3 concentration by 238 mg/L.

Rumen pH was lower in the animals fed 100% Leucaena and increased with supplementation of maize stover (Table 1). Overall, pH values were slightly above the upper limit of the normal rumen pH range (6.8-7.0; McDonald et al, 2011). This is because rumen fluid was collected using stomach tube that may have caused contamination of the rumen fluid with saliva.

Body dimensions, body condition score and live weight gain.

Results on the change in BCS and body dimensions, ADG and FCR are presented in Table 2. All animals were in poor body condition score at the start of the experiment (the average BCS were 2.0, 1.9 and 2.0 for groups A, B and C respectively). At the end of the experiment the respective BCS increased to 3.3, 3.1 and 3.0. The average increase in BCS was significantly higher in animals fed 100% Leucaena compared to those supplemented with maize stover, but the differences between treatments were non-significant.

Table 2. Changes in body dimension, body condition score (BCS), average daily gain (ADG) and feed conversion ratio (FCR) of male Bali cattle fed 100% leucaena (A), 75% Leucaena+25% maize stover (B) and 50% leucaena + 50% maize stover (C).





Change in BCS (score 1- 5)

1.3 0.3

1.1 0.2

1.0 0.0

Change in chest girth (cm)




Change in wither height (cm)




Change in body length (cm)




ADG, kg/d

0.50 0.08a

0.46 0.07a

0.39 0.05b

FCR, kg DMI/kg ADG

6.5 0.6a

6.2 0.8a

6.8 0.6b

Change in chest girth was higher in the animals fed 100% Leucaena compared to those fed 25% or 50% maize stover as Leucaena replacements. This is as expected because they had similar BCS at start and then the animals in group A had high final BCS and ADG. Changes in wither height and body length on the other hand did not differ significantly between treatments.

The ADG of Bali cattle in Group A (0.50 0.08 kg/d) was significantly higher (P<0.01) than both groups of B (0.460.07 kg/d) and C (0.390.05 kg/d). The lowest of ADG obtained in this study was more than 0.2 kg/d for the Bali cattle offered native grass (Dahlanuddin et al 2012). Leucaena used in this experiment contained crude protein (CP) of 25.2%, so that the ADG reached by bull in was higher than the bulls which manage under the traditional system (Panjaitan 2012).

The FCR values was higher in the animals fed 50% maize stover compared to those fed 100% leucaena and 75% Leucaena+25% maize stover. This is probably because feeding roughage at high level reduced the nutrient balance in the diet and lower the growth rate. Overall, the FCR recorded in this experiment was better than the FCR of 7.55 reported by Tahuk and Dethan (2010) for similar Bali cattle in a greenlot fattening (fed mainly native grass and king grass without supplement) in West Timor.

Feeding 100% Leucaena may have caused subclinical toxicity that limit growth rate (Halliday et al, 2014). However, dry matter intake and digestibility (28.9 1.1 g/kgLW/day and 58.2 1.8% respectively) did not seem to have been negatively affected the mimmosine in the Leucaena. Sivilai et al (2018) reported that supplementation of biochar to forage based diet improves FCR in pigs. A further study is required to determine the effect of biochar supplementation to Leucaena based diet on rumen fermentation kinetics, growth rate and feed conversion ratio in cattle.

Determination of leucaena and maize stover combination

Feed offered between day seven of the experiment and day 62 gives no significant result on daily live weight. However, there was a significant increment with the equation of y = 0.004x2 – 0.4396x + 134.91, as it is shown in Figure 1. Based on Figure 1, the minimum level of leucaena required in the diet to get minimum expected ADG of at least 0.4 kg/day is 55%. Lambe et al (2006) explained that by drawing the curve of the growth path, it will enable us to make feeding strategy, management and breeding system to increase the effectiveness of growth process thoroughly.

Figure 1. Minimum level (%) of leucaena required to get optimum liveweight gain

Subjective assessment of body conformation by the researchers indicate that feeding 50% maize stover tended to increase the stomach size (rumen volume) due to gut fill. This may reduce carcass percentage. Even though the model suggests that the maize stover level can be as high as 45%, it seems that feeding lower level of maize stover (25-30%) with ad libitum Leucaena is a preferable option as it will not lower the carcass percentage.



Results of this experiment provides low cost and practical leucaena and maize stover based feeding options for farmers in the dry areas like the northern parts of Timor Leste, where maize can be integrated with leucaena. Farmers can replace up to 45% of leucaena with maize stover that enables them to feed more cattle to achieve a moderate growth rate. This feeding strategy is very relevant to resource constraint farmers to achieve both food security and feed security.


This experiment was part of a research project Improving farmer profits from beef cattle by using dry land forage production systems in Timor-Leste (LPS/2013/022) funded by The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Received 5 June 2018; Accepted 7 June 2018; Published 3 July 2018

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