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Fodder and Forage Production

by K.C. Paudel and B.N. Tiwari



Palatable tree species, including shrubs, and bamboo, that are fed to or browsed by animals are called fodder trees. Referred to as tree fodder, they are an important animal feed resource in Nepal particularly during the dry winter, when green grasses are not available. Livestock diets are usually composed of green grasses, crop by-products or fodder trees, with little or no concentrate feed. Over 50% of the total fodder supply comes from forest resources with forest trees supplying 20%. Fodder trees also provide significant amounts (15–29%) of crude protein. Fodder is usually fed as a supplement to crop by-products or grass, because although its production is limited, it is regarded as a high milk producing forage with high palatability. Thus, species such as Artocarpus lakoocha, Premna integrifolia, and Ficus semicordata are fed to lactating animals.


The complex farming systems of the hills have a decreasing level of soil fertility which in turn is reducing crop productivity. The manure to replenish soil nutrients comes largely from livestock and requires more fodder/forage to obtain animal products and sustain the farming system. Agricultural production in the hills of Nepal is the result of the interaction of forest, animal and soil fertility. Animal-based farming systems in the hills have strong linkages with forest resources for fodder supply and nutrient recycling. The trees have nutritional, social, ecological and cultural value in Nepalese society.

In addition to these direct benefits to the farmer, fodder trees play an important role in environmental preservation by providing ground cover, thus minimising soil losses through run off. The self regeneration and high coppicing capacity of these trees enables them to be considered as a renewable natural resource with undigested leaf litter providing a good quality compost, and leftover branches providing fuelwood. Trees therefore help the farmers in many ways to sustain their hill farming systems in general, through animal production in particular.


The concentration of the animal population in the mid-hills has already depleted fodder/forest resources to the extent that most of them are under threat. Pandey (1982) estimated that two tonnes of dry matter equivalent forage is required per livestock unit per year. From a study of on-farm managed buffaloes and cows at Lumle, Heuch (1986) showed that the total annual fodder used by cows and buffaloes was nine and seventeen tonnes fresh weight of which 27% and 41% of the total for cows and buffaloes respectively was from tree fodder. However, this is not the present situation for all animals in the hills. MPFS (1988) stated that all the mid-hills except the eastern hills are in a fodder deficit situation, and this effect will continue until 2010 AD. The surplus fodder that is available in the high hill areas is not being properly utilized due to uneven distribution of pasture land and animal population. Various studies have been carried out to estimate fodder needs on a household basis, and have found that the overall deficit of animal forage is around 20% (Pandey, 1982). Wyatt-Smith (1982) concluded that almost three hectares of unmanaged accessible forest are required to sustain one hectare of agricultural land for fodder. All these situations clearly show the need of further development of fodder to maintain existing animal populations.

Traditional Practice of Fodder Usage:

In terms of ownership, there are two sources of fodder trees in Nepal, namely private and community forest. The trees that are grown on and around farm land, terrace risers, kharbari, and khet land are regarded as private fodder, and the other type includes the trees from natural forest areas, community plantations and community forests. The management of these trees varies greatly from place to place, even at the household level, depending upon resources, techniques and time availability.

Most of the private fodder trees are either naturally seeded or have been propagated by the farmers themselves. They are protected from animal damage while small, by providing stone walls, brushwood or bamboo cases as individual tree guards. Almost all of them are located in unirrigated bariland (Hawkins and Malla, 1983 cited by Heuch, 1986), where intensive cropping is done and protection from cattle is not a major problem. More care is given to planting, protecting and harvesting these trees, compared to communally-owned fodder trees, and lopping is done during the winter season depending upon the needs and phenology of the individual tree species. Some are partially lopped while others are completely defoliated, and individual trees are often managed differently. This system of growing and utilization has been passed on from generation to generation, indicating the farmers' knowledge of sustainability of fodder resources in the hill ecosystem, and their integration with the whole farming system.

Community fodder resources are generally derived from the natural forest near the village, where people have excercised their traditional rights of forest use since first domesticating animals. These forests are gradually being registered with District Forest Offices, and are being converted into Community Forests. Deforested areas are replanted as Community Plantations. Most of the forest fodder is comprised of tree leaves (eg. Quercus spp., Terminalia spp.), shrubs (Flemingia spp., Phyllanthus parvifolius) bamboos (Arundinaria spp.) and climbers (Bauhinia vahlii). Pandey (1982) reported more than thirty families of trees being used for fodder in Nepal. A list of common fodder trees with their lopping cycle is given in Table 1.

Natural forest is regarded as common property, and is traditionally protected and utilized communally. Traditional practices vary from forest to forest depending upon social customs, traditional rules and species composition. Management of natural forest as a major resource of fodder plays an important role in the farming system, and those areas with an abundance of fodder trees are utilized through peoples' participation and involvement in formal or informal Forestry Users' Group Committees.

Table 1: Species of fodder trees utilized in the hills of Nepal, and their lopping cycle.

ZoneLocal NameScientific NameMajor sourceLopping period
Low hillsPakhuriFicus glaberimaFarmDec - Apr
PipalF. religiosaForestOct - May
DabdabeGaruga pinnataFarmOct - May
BakainoMelia azedarachFarmMay - Jul
HarroTerminalia chebulaForestOct - Nov
BadaharArtocarpus lakoochaFarmOct - Mar
Kalo KabroF. infectoriaFarmJun - Jul
BarroTerminalia bellericaForestMar - Apr
KavroF. lacorFarmFeb - Jan
KutsimloSchefflera venulosaForestJan - Feb
TankiBauhinia purpureaFarmNov - Mar
KoiraloB. variegataFarmNov - Mar
SalShorea robustaForestMar - Jun
AsnaTerminalia tomentosaForestDec - Mar
Mid-hillsChiuriBassia butyraceaFarmNov - Mar
Seto ChuletroBrassaiopsis hainlaFarmMay - Jun
BhimsenpatiBuddleja asiaticaFarmMay - Jun
DhalnekatusCastanopsis indicaForestApr - Jun
KhariCeltis australisForestApr - Oct
LapsiChoerospondias axillarisFarmSep - Nov
PhaledoErythrina arborescensFarmOct - Dec
JhyanuEurya acuminataForestApr - Jun
BeruloF. clavataFarmRound a year
KalikathMyrsine capitellataForestDec - Mar
PainyuPrunus cerasoidesFarmFeb - Jul
BhakimloRhus javanicaForestJun - Sep
GoganSaurauia nepaulensisFarmDec - Mar

ZoneLocal NameScientific NameMajor sourceLopping period
Mid-hills NimaroF. auriculataFarmNov - Jan
Rai KhaninF. semicordataFarmDec - Feb
DudhiloF. neriifoliaFarmOct - May
BhimalGrewia optivaFarmOct - Mar
KutmeroLitsea monopetalaFarmDec - Mar
GinderiPremna integrifoliaFarmNov - Feb
ThotneF. hispidaFarmJan - Mar
DarBoehmeria regulusaFarmJan - Mar
GayoBridelia retusaForestDec - Feb
KauloMachilus odoratissimaFarmJan - Mar
PateEurya cerasifoliaForestApr - Jun
Rato SirisAlbizia mollisForestApr - Jun
LodhSymplocos crataegoidesForestDec - Mar
MaidaloXylosma controversumForestDec - Mar
ChilauneSchima wallichiiForestMar - Jun
LankuriFraxinus floribundaFarmMay - Jul
Kalo ChuletroBrassaiopsis glomerulataFarmMay - Jun
High hillsPangroAesculus indicaForestMay - Oct
Patle KatusCastanopsis hystrixForestJan - Jun
Musure KatusC. tribuloidesForestDec - Mar
KimbuMorus albaFarmJan - Oct
BhotepipalPopulus speciesFarmJun - Sep
Sano PhalantQuercus glaucaForestRound the year
Thulo PhalantQ. lamellosaForestMar - Oct
BanjhQ. lanataForestOct - Jun
Sano BanjhQ. leucotrichophoraForestNov - Apr
KhasruQ. semicarpifoliaForestNov - Apr
DemmarCornus capitataForestJan - Mar
Dur KaphalPrunus paddusForestJan - Mar
BainsSalix sppFarmRound the year

Source: Amatya (1990)

The lopping season for forest fodder begins after food crop harvest in the winter, usually from December onwards, and ceases before the new flush of growth in the spring (Table 1). Shrestha (1982), Fox (1983), and Van Swinderen (1987, cited by Heuch, 1986) all noted that farmers use tree fodder throughout the year, but the sole use of tree fodder during the monsoon is unusual, because of the availability of grass. Most fodder tree species are lopped only once a year, and only a very few species such as Buddleja asiatica are lopped twice.

No standard package of practices has been developed for the harvesting and utilization of fodder, and farmers exploit fodder resources according to their own experience. This varies from place to place, but is based upon the philosophy of common rights and responsibilities.

There is little conscious effort on the part of farmers or official organisations to plant the most productive species of fodder tree, and little work has been done to determine what the yields of fodder trees are in terms of total biomass. Those studies that have been undertaken, show that great variation exists, even within single species.

There is also little information available about the quality and nutritive value of fodder trees in Nepal. Researchers and scientists have to depend upon farmers' traditional knowledge to gather such information. The great diversity of species used for fodder must mean there are large variations in nutritive value. This may serve to explain the common practice of feeding a combination of species, which may result in better nutritive value than feeding a single species. Estimates of a biomass yield from different fodder tree species are given in Table 2 and available nutritive value analyses of some of the most common fodder species of Nepal are presented in Table 3.

Data reveal that nutrient content varies within species, and even within a single tree, depending upon site, age, location of leaves on the tree, and maturity of the foliage (Shrestha and Tiwari, 1991). Some fodder trees exhibit toxic or anti-nutritive properties, and the extent to which this affects overall nutritive value of the fodder is a subject for future investigation. In a recent survey, Tiwari et al (1991) identified seven species which farmers regarded as showing toxic properties, and which therefore were not fed to livestock.

Table 2: Estimated foliage production of fodder trees.

SpeciesFodder yield per tree
Yield (kg)FM(kg)FM (kg)DM (kg)DBH (cm)FM (kg)
Artocarpus lakoocha60 – 200  (FM)60 – 200169-6–506–282
Bauhinia purpurea19 – 72  (DM)60–803472--
B. variegata21 – 42  "60–1503442--
Brassaiopsis hainla40 – 60  (FM)---6–2014–75
Buddleja asiatica20 – 80  "---4 – 128 – 25
Castanopsis tribuloides40 – 60  "-----
Ficus auriculata60 – 80 "60–12045-6–223–192
F. lacor100 – 150 "100–15079---
F. neriifolia18 – 74  (DM)100–120-746–235–71
F. semicordata8 – 18  "50–1002321--
F. clavata60 – 80  (FM)60–8034---
Garuga pinnata50 – 100  "-----
Litsea monopetala19 – 25  (DM)60–10056256–306–102
Morus alba40 – 50  (FM)-----
Prunus cerasoides80 – 120  "---11–324–76
Quercus glauca80 – 100  "-----
Q. lanata50 – 80  "-----
Q. semicarpifolia30 – 40  (DM)-----
F. glaberrima- -169---
Saurauia nepaulensis10 – 22  (DM)40–60-22--
Garuga pinnata50 – 100  (FM)50–10034---
Premna integrifolia- 50–8034---

Note:    FM = Fresh matter;
DM = Dry matter;
DBH = Diameter at breast height.

Source:   (1) Jackson (1987);
(2) Pandey (1982);
(3) Gajurel et al (1987);
(4) Thapa (1985);
(5) LAC (unpublished data).

Table 3: Nutritive value of some species of fodder tree leaves from the mid-hills of Nepal.

CP (%)Ash (%)pp/gmCP (%)Ash (%)CP (%)Ash (%)CP (%)Ash (%)CP (%)CP (%)Ash (%)
Artocarpus lakoocha12.2–14.313.3–17.674–296--16---161510
Brassaiopsis hainla11.1–16.87.4–972–7088.6–12.06.5–7.422---22--
Dendrocalamus spp.15.1–18.311.7–16.6Nil---------
Litsea polyantha14.9–188.6–7.9120–27614.5–12.25.0–5.810.3–17.0---


Ficus glaberrima9.8–12.211.2–13.2127–334---------
F. semicordata12.3–16.27.4–10.172–369--12.517.99.228.1012--
F. roxburghii12.9–14.815.9–21.232–249--12.0–13.0-13.27.92171713
F. neriifolia (var. nemoralis)9.4–13.08.4–10.857–20510.1–17.07.8–13.8


F. cunia-------10.319.8812--
F. lacor-------11.677.348.5–15.7--
F. hispida-------14.097.0612.6–16.2--
F. bengalensis-------8.416.728.0–11.5--
Quercus semicarpifolia14.9–16.72.6–2.8308–4428.3–13.92.1–
Q. lamellosa11.1–12.94.7–5.8200–200--10.0---10.0--
Prunus cerasoides15.7–185.2–6.583–265--6.4---6.4--
Castanopsis tribuloides12.5–14.73.3–4.4164–29810.0–13.52.910.0–12.0---10.0–12.0--
C. indica14.4–153.5–3.9164–20810.9–12.62.8–12.615.0---15.0--
Premna integrifolia----------2110
Ficus clavata----------1817
Buddleja asiatica----------199
Grewia spp----------1912
Bauhinia spp----------299

Note:     CP = Crude protein;
pp = Protein precipitation.

Source:    (1) Shrestha and Tiwari (1991);
(2) LAC (unpublished data);
(3) Amatya (1990);
(4) Mahato and Subba (1988);
(5) Jackson (1987);
(6) Pandey (1982).


Previous chapters have referred to the rapid increase in human population that has occurred during the past few decades in Nepal. This has resulted in more intensive cropping of arable land, and more encroachment into forest areas for new cultivation to meet the ever-increasing demand for food crops. In 1963–64, the forest area of Nepal excluding the high Himalaya region was estimated to be 6.5 million ha. (Sharma and Amatya, 1978), but by 1978 the area had decreased to 6.0m ha. (LRMP, 1986), and in 1988 MPFS (1988) stated that only 5.5m ha remained (Table 4). This trend of decreasing forest area was also linked to a decline in quality (Amatya, 1991). No single cause can be identified for these losses, but they are the combined effects of conversion of forest into arable land to support human populations, and increase in livestock populations to meet demand for milk, meat and manure, which also depend upon the forest for feed resources.

In addition, resettlement programmes for landless people, the export of timber to India, shifting cultivation in the hills, and development projects concerning roads, canals and electricity transmission lines, have been implemented at the cost of the forest, from where substantial amounts of fodder and grazing pasture were previously derived. The cumulative effect of all these events has led to a serious threat to the environment.

Table 4: Increasing trend of human and livestock population with respect to decrease in forest area in Nepal.

DecadeHuman Population
Animal Population
('000 head)
Forest Area
('000 ha)
1960s  9413-6500

Source: DFAMS (1986); MPFS (1988); LMP (1990); Rajbhandary and Shah(1981).


Since more than 50% of fodder is derived from forests, fodder development cannot be dealt with in isolation from forest development. Therefore, to understand the present situation, the history of forest development policy needs to be considered.

In Nepal, planning for forest development began in 1956, with the objective of protecting, managing and utilizing forest resources. Vast tracts of forest, previously owned by the ruling families, and other forested areas including adjacent fallow lands were nationalized under the “Forest Nationalization Act, 1957”. Forest nationalization was not an acceptable policy to the people, and a similar “Land Act, 1963” also had a negative impact. The “Forest Nationalization Act, 1957”, though aimed at preventing degradation, had the opposite effect because many tree owners felt they no longer owned their trees and so felled them for sale. Categorization of land into private and forest land also led to excessive felling of trees, because land with trees on it could not be registered. Bari and kharbari land which had previously been covered with trees were cleared and planted to agricultural crops ahead of the cadastral survey.

The attitude and beliefs of the people for maintaining natural forest were strongly entrenched, and the government laws could not be effectively enacted. After realizing that nationalisation alone was not an appropriate policy to protect forest areas, and to fulfil the high demand for fuelwood and fodder, new legislation in the form of “Panchayat Forest (PF) Rules, 1978” and “Panchayat Protected Forest (PPF) Rules, 1978” were introduced. This involved a participatory approach to development and utilization of forest resources, and from this beginning the present Community Forestry Development Programmes were initiated. This participatory approach has targeted a reduction of pressure on natural forests by increasing productivity of the accessible village forests. Community Forestry Programmes, though slow to start, are now showing positive results.

In 1988, a twenty year programme for the forestry sector entitled “Master Plan for Forestry Sector Nepal” (MPFS, 1988) was approved by the Government. Under this plan, some 47% of the total approved budget would be utilized in community and private forestry programmes, which emphasised people's participation in resource management. Special attention is given to meeting the basic needs of fuel/fodder production, and to the phased handing over of accessible parts of national forests to Forest Users' Groups. The programme encourages rural farmers to become self-sufficient in fodder and fuelwood supply by developing forests on their own land and in degraded accessible forest areas. Development of fodder trees was not considered before the 1970s, because no official organisation viewed them as an essential component. Since then, the policy has been to encourage fodder tree production and management in both forest and private land. Simple management plans, as drafted by the users themselves, lessens the administrative and bureaucratic procedures that had previously existed, and encourages a responsible attitude towards forestry development.

Present policy on community forestry has given greater responsibility to the Users' Groups with respect to decision making, and has involved them in programme planning and implementation. The two major components are protection of existing resources, and development of them to a productive stage. Establishing new plantations with species of users' preference has also provided a choice of management option for fulfilling daily needs. The former “Panchayat Forest” and “Panchayat Protected Forestry Acts” have now been merged into the “Community Forests Act”, which gives rights to the users to exploit products derived from both planted and protected forests. This has given people the incentive to manage their own resources properly. The few existing weaknesses to the present “Community Forestry Act” are under revision, and a new “Forestry Bill” is expected to be sanctioned by Parliament soon. It is expected that new rules will further facilitate the existing procedures from the users' point of view.

Newly formalised local Forestry Users' Group Committees have started planting programmes with fodder species of their own choice and farmers have also begun to plant grasses, fuelwood, and nigalo (small bamboo) on their farm land.

Institutions involved in fodder development in Nepal:

More than 35 Government and Non-Governmental Organisations and projects are involved in natural resource management research and development in Nepal, including fodder production.

The Department of Forests and the Department of Livestock Services are the main Government institutions promoting fodder tree establishment and development in Nepal. The Department of Forest, through Users' Groups promotes natural forest protection, and plantation activities are conducted in Community Forests or on private land. Established forest nurseries have started producing fodder seedlings that the farmers want, and these are distributed free of cost, which has resulted in the mass propagation of fodder trees. The numbers of forest nurseries are increasing and many are now privately operated. Some of these nurseries also propagate grasses and legumes to assist farmers to increase forage production as well.


Khibang Village may be taken as an example to illustrate the concepts of a community managed Oak forest. The village comprises 200 households and 921 persons. They have been involved in protecting the natural oak forest around them for more than three decades. About 1000ha. of this forest lies between 2000 and 3000m consisting of naturally occurring Oak, Rhododendron and high altitude conifers (Abies, Tsuga, Taxus spp.). Previously it was a free access area, and fodder trees located near the village were heavily lopped and were losing their capacity to self regenerate. On the other hand, trees located in the far reaches of the forest were left untouched. The villagers themselves had already developed an informal forest committee for controlling usage, and this was reorganised, strengthened and reconstituted as a formal Forestry Users' Group Committee.

The Committee has allocated forest areas into different sectors, and has given the responsibility for their protection to the nearby users' households. Rules have been formulated by consensus, and the whole community is expected to abide by them. Collection of major forest products, including tree fodder, is regulated and the dates of opening and closing the forest are fixed. Those who need fodder can go and collect the species of their choice free of cost. People violating the rules are fined, and the fine is deposited in the Committee's fund for future development. The Committee also has control over grass collection from community plantation areas.

Alternative systems can be found in other villages where for example natural regeneration is encouraged by only permitting lopping of fodder trees once every three years. In some cases, naturally grown fodder trees are assigned to individual households, who can use them as they see fit. In others, every year three to four trees are allocated by lottery to individual households for fodder collection. Protection of these forests is done by paying in cash or in kind to a watchman appointed by the villagers themselves. Although local management practices may vary from place to place, they depend upon the rules and practices that the users themselves have agreed to establish, and as such are generally observed by all concerned.

It is difficult to quantify exactly how many such informal forest committees exist in the Nepalese hills. One single Village Development Committee (VDC) may have as many as nine different Users' Group Committees (UGC). Some of these indigenous systems are very effective in sustaining the forest, while others are still causing degradation through over exploitation. In a case-study in Sindhu and Kavre Palanchok District, Fisher et al (1989) stated that “institutionalised norms, based on a degree of consensus among users, are the essence of all indigenous forest management systems”. It is also noted that homogenous caste societies (particularly Magars) are more easily united for Community Development work, rather than where heterogeneous groups exist (Paudel, 1990). Where managed properly, these local systems for the further development of forest resources can be of great impact, and some Livestock Development Committees also benefit from adopting these practices for the production of more fodder trees in the hills.


In spite of overall changes in Government national policies, there are still some constraints to the wider development of fodder resources in the hills. These can be categorised, as social, technical and institutional.

Farmers in Nepal with small landholdings, and a variety of agricultural practices, have always been constrained by availability of land. Land of low fertility potential has meant that there is a need for larger areas to sustain livelihoods. The limited area available can no longer support the increasing demands of an enlarging population. For social and political reasons, forests have lost much of their production potential in accessible areas, leading to serious socio-economic consequences. Most societies are unaware of the need for conservation and lack technical information.

The choice of the correct species for the available land is felt by farmers to be crucial. Tree growing is a long term venture, and farmers naturally want a quick return. Planting with the wrong species e.g. pines, has resulted in negative attitudes in some areas, and this has discouraged farmers from investing their limited resources in fodder trees. Similarly, a lack of appropriate technical packages and recommendations regarding propagation and management of fodder trees hinders mass propagation at the farm level. When planted near agricultural fields, fodder trees shade food crops and reduce yields. This means farmers will plant trees either in areas with little or no fertile soil, where they will not compete with crops, or will remove the trees entirely. This exerts a negative effect on the overall increase in production of tree fodder, at a time when it is manifestly needed. Also collection of seed of poor quality, inadequately trained manpower, and lack of fodder tree information on productivity and nutrient content are additional technical constraints on the development of fodder resources.

Furthermore, official institutions have regarded fodder tree production as a low priority. Attempts to increase livestock production by the importation of ‘exotic’ breeds was also made without considering the fact that to realise their full potential they required a higher plane of nutrition, and the local fodder resource was inadequate. These activities have decreased peoples' faith in institutionalised approaches.


Because fodder trees are an important feed resource with ecological and social value, their planting and protection will assist in preserving the environment as well as supplying fodder/fuel/and ultimately organic fertilizer. There is considerable potential for the future, provided a systematic strategy is adopted. Private or government/community fallow land could be converted into productive areas by planting fodder trees. In places where no agricultural crop production is possible, fodder trees could be raised, and more efficient use made of scarce land to meet fodder needs. A total of 815,000 ha. of non-cultivated farmland in the high and mid-mountains, and 580,000 ha. of degraded forest land are potential areas of fodder production in the hills (LRMP, 1986). If these were to be planted, then it is estimated that in only seven years an additional 14 million tonnes of fresh fodder could be produced annually, which would sustain 640,000 livestock units.

Fodder trees planted in combination with ground pasture, or shade tolerant cash crops such as cardamom, medicinal herbs or turmeric could also provide substantial amounts of animal forage, and a source of income for farmers.

Conservation and management of fodder blocks for higher production:

The existing livestock population cannot be fed adequately with the presently available resources. Hence, future production must be maximized. With reference to the present situation, and the problems and potential for developing fodder resources, the following practices can be considered to sustain and improve livestock productivity, without further degradation of the natural resources.

Community forestry should aim to protect and manage present accessible forests in favour of fodder production, by ensuring natural regeneration. This can be achieved by drafting practical operational plans for community forest management, which seek to manipulate fodder species and divert grazing pressure from poorly regenerated forest land, and to allow the latter time to recover and revert to its former productiveness. Planting more fodder trees as appropriate would augment this process.

Basic research needs:

Superior clones of fodder trees should be identified and propagated to improve the quality of planting stocks. As fodder tree management is a long term investment, agroforestry practices with fodder trees in the upper story and grass legumes in the understorey and on terrace risers, would help to meet the demand of animal forage requirement. Site amelioration practices would also improve establishment and growth.

Effective agricultural extension:

Public awareness of problems needs to be generated through effective extension work and Users' Group Training. Improved harvesting and feeding techniques should be adapted, and methods of lopping fodder trees from the forest must be improved so that regeneration can occur. New livestock development projects should include a fodder production component.

Extension support should use and be provided with technical research findings. Farmers knowledge on production, management and utilization of fodder resources should be utilised and developed as baseline information. Livestock and fodder/pasture cannot be considered in isolation, and a multidisciplinary approach should be adopted so that hill farming systems are sustained. Unproductive animals are a liability for both farmers and the forest ecology, and unless either a drastic change is made to control livestock population, or fodder production is increased, then neither forest resources, nor animal productivity will come into balance again.

Institutional strengthening:

Concerned institutions should be well equipped with the required funds, manpower, technical support facilities and other physical infrastructure. Relevant training, and job evaluation should be encouraged and the rapid transfer of government personnel should be discouraged.

Coordination is the greatest problem in the Nepalese system of administration. If this problem could be resolved, more than half the problems of development work would be solved (Rajbhandary and Pradhan, 1991).

Research and development:

An hypothetical approach to forest resource management for fodder development is presented in Figure 1. Research and development of fodder resources should aim both to manage existing natural forests, and to develop new technologies for increasing production of fodder trees. At the same time, research into the use of alternative animal feeds, such as crop by-product improvement and forage/grass development should be intensified.

Fig. 1: Conceptual diagram of forest resource management in Nepal, and fields of fodder research and development for the future.

Fig. 1

The fodder resource is one of the most vital components of Nepalese animal management systems, but has remained a low priority for many years. Without further developing its management and utilization in a more rational manner, continuity of fodder production in the hills of Nepal will lose its capacity to self regenerate.

The effect of a decrease in forest quality and quantity because of increases in human and livestock populations in the past few decades has led to a fodder deficit situation. More attention must now be paid to improving management practices of natural forest and establishing a set of standard procedures for seedling production and sapling establishment.

More research work is required to produce a reliable fodder base, and research and development should proceed concurrently so as to alleviate peoples' problems and to increase fodder production in a reasonably quick time. Identification of the best fodder species, and evaluation of their productivity and nutritive value, should be undertaken as a longer term strategy for fodder production and its efficient utilisation.

There are ample opportunities to improve fodder/forage supplies through planting uncultivated fallow land with fodder trees, and encouraging Forestry Users' Groups to protect and manage community forests in favour of fodder production. Phased hand over of parts of the National Forest to Users' Groups and devolving to them the right to develop an operational plan in the way they see fit, combined with some subsidies, will assist hill farmers to be self sustainable in fodder production in the longer term.



There is an acute shortage of animal feed in the hills of Nepal. Therefore, the crucial problem in livestock husbandry is the supply of adequate nutritious fodder/forage for their maintenance and production. Over the whole country, the animal feed deficit is 1574, 2925 and 729 million mt of Dry Matter (DM), Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN) and Crude Protein (CP) respectively. This is only 9.5%, 30.9% and 51.6% of the requirement.

In the hills where 70% of total livestock units (LU) exist, the feed situation is even worse, with a deficit of 18.2%, 37.6% and 56.2% for the same criteria (Table 5). This is reflected in poor livestock performance nationally.

Table 5: Feed requirement and supply in the hills.

Total LUFeed requirement
('000 mt)
Feed Supply
('000 mt)
('000 mt)
Hills 4948759
Nepal 70896791659894611414150246535 685-1574

Note: Figures in parentheses represent percentage of total and of requirement.

Source: Rajbhandary and Pradhan (1991).

Therefore, the hills should be the main centre of focus for any livestock feed improvement programme. If timely consideration is not given to this problem, the requirements of the animals will lead to more damage to the fragile eco-system of the hills.


Initial forage development work in Nepal dates back to the late 1950s with the establishment of cheese factories in the Northern Pasture Region. This was followed by an FAO Pasture, Fodder and Livestock Development Project, and the establishment of a Pasture and Fodder Centre, and a Sheep and Wool Development Project with forage development activities in different locations of the Northern Pasture Region. Forage improvement activities through research and extension were also carried out at different livestock farms in the Northern Pasture Region. Recognizing the need to expand activities, the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) initiated the Northern Area Pasture Development Programme in 1985 to address the livestock and forage problems in the northern part of the country, which had been affected by the closing of Tibetan grazing land to Nepalese herds.

In the hills, the main thrust of Government programmes for the development of animal feed resources has been through Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDPs). These projects have operated since the mid-1970s in 25 hill districts, and in a further five hill districts through the Second Livestock Development Project (SLDP). Activities have included fodder development, through the introduction of tree fodder, the distribution of grass/legume seeds, and the improvement of feed conservation and husbandry practices. These activities are implemented by District Offices of the DLS, the Department of Forests (DOF) and the Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management (DSCWM) as part of their general extension programmes.


A major constraint to the success of these activities has been the lack of definitive policy guidelines, and skilled manpower. Activities have been restricted to the distribution of a few kilograms of forage seeds or fodder seedlings, often of a type that the farmer does not want. Also, coordination between the various departments has not been sufficiently institutionalised. This has now been recognised, and the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector, Nepal (MPFS, 1988) now clearly indicates that forest areas will be increased during the plan period by improving grasslands, shrublands and degraded forests, and by granting legal ownership of such land to the users' groups.

Prevailing beliefs:

Farmers as well as administrators have the prevailing traditional notion that grazing land is a self-producing, unlimited source of supply which will support any number of animals without any management. Further, it is believed that poor grazing land will produce even more if it is cultivated for arable crops. In spite of the evidence that the old ways of farming can no longer be supported, traditional practices continue.

Work in isolation:

Though previous development interventions have been able to provide some of information on forage resources, there is still no general package that can be implemented to ensure improvement. Previous work has concentrated largely on agronomic practices, comparison of fodder varieties, production and distribution of tree saplings, and establishment of fodder nurseries for sapling production. Unfortunately, emphasis on understanding the objectives and requirements of the local inhabitants under a farming systems perspective has been minimal. The information and initiatives generated from these earlier efforts are not well documented and, as a result, work on the subject has resulted in duplication of effort.


The complex, changing social and ecological structure of fodder and livestock production systems, and a general lack of understanding of them, means that all development interventions should adopt a farming systems perspective to provide for the long term continuity necessary for effective development. High priority activities that require immediate attention for fodder and feed development programmes in the hills are as follows.

Fodder/forage production:


Under the existing cropping pattern, winter forage crops, particularly berseem (Trifolium alexandrium) in the low hills, and oats (Avena sativa) over the entire hill region, are promising forage crops, and are being promoted in general extension programmes.

However, because the area of grazing land is steadily decreasing due to encroachment of arable crop cultivation, it cannot be expected that the reverse will occur, and that cultivated land will be placed under forage. Therefore, varieties of arable crops should be selected to match the experience of Northern Pakistan, where maize varieties adopted by farmers are those with not only good grain yield, but where the leaf remains green until the cob is harvested at maturity. The stalk also has a high sugar content and is readily eaten by stock (Lane, 1990). Similar programmes to that for maize could be initiated with rice and wheat, so that in the situation that pertains in the hill districts of Nepal, these crops become dual-purpose. Already, farmer preferred varieties of finger millet are those which show a similar characteristic, and the straw is used to feed livestock after the grain has been harvested.

Uncultivated land:

Grazing land productivity could be increased by oversowing with suitable grasses and legumes. Little investigative work has been done in Nepal on this topic, but on the basis of work done so far, limited success has been achieved by oversowing with white clover (Trifolium repens), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) in the Northern Area Pasture Development Programme. Successful initiatives of oversowing molasses grass (Melinis minutiflora) and Stylosanthes spp. by the Palpa Development Project, and Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) in the Lumle Command Area, both in the Western Hills, and at Jiri in the Middle Hills need to be further encouraged.

Grazing management:

Almost continuous grazing is practised on all the available grazing land in the hills, which reduces the vigour and vitality of the plant species, and accelerates erosion on the hill slopes. Fleming (1978) reported a six-fold increase in grassland productivity just by preventing overgrazing in the Phewa Catchment Area of the Western Hills.

Tree fodder planting and silvipasture:

Institutions involved in fodder extension programmes should be aware of farmers' needs, and forest nurseries operated by these agencies must produce seedlings of the farmer's choice.

Terrace riser production:

The potential of terrace riser for fodder production has not yet been exploited. Experience within the Lumle Command Area on the use of terrace risers for planting perennial grasses and legumes such as Setaria anceps, Melinis minutiflora and Desmodium spp. have been encouraging. Likewise, Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) has shown its potential both on terrace risers, and on roadside slopes up to an altitude of 1600m asl.

Crop by-product improvement:

Efficient utilization of existing crop by-products will increase the availability of digestible nutrients. Rajbhandary and Pradhan (1991) reported that simply chaffing straw will reduce wastage by 10–15%, and physical and chemical treatment can increase the digestibility of rice straw from 45% to 60%.

Infrastructural development:

The quantity of forage crop planting material being grown at livestock stations does not meet the present demand, and as a result, the country has to purchase substantial amounts of forage seed from abroad. The absence of an established forage and pasture seed industry severely limits fodder development activities.

Good collaboration between working institution should be developed and encouraged. All institutions involved in fodder development should intensify efforts to coordinate their policies towards the Users' Group's demands at the field level.


One of the major constraints on livestock development in the hills has been the unavailability of adequate, nutritious fodder throughout the year. The small size of landholdings and the high animal population per unit area of land has exacerbated the situation. Farmers in the hills have complex subsistence or semi-subsistence farming systems, involving the integration of crops, livestock, and forestry. The nutritional improvement of livestock diets is dependent upon continued efforts from different subject disciplines, and so a multidisciplinary approach is important to develop technology to increase the availability of fodder both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Lumle Regional Agricultural Research Centre has realised the complexity of the hill farming system and has evolved a farming systems, farmer participatory ‘thrust’ approach the principles of which have been described in Chapter 3. One of these cross-disciplinary research programmes, is the “Fodder Thrust”.

The main objective of this thrust is to increase the availability of adequate nutritious fodder throughout the year. The problem is approached in the following ways.

Perennial forage crops for terrace risers:

The availability of indigenous grasses growing on terrace risers is greatest during the monsoon period. Feed requirements for livestock are more or less the same throughout the year, and because increasing pressure for grain production has brought more and more land under cultivation, and at a greater cropping intensity, existing feed resource for livestock are declining. Because of over grazing, the condition of rough pasture land has been so badly degraded, that many farmers consider that taking the animals to these distant grazing land is merely for the exercise. Farmers are forced to keep either fewer animals, or to retain those they have in an undernourished condition.

There is no traditional practice of growing forage crops on terraced land, because grain crops are considered essential for survival. However, the use of terrace risers for increased fodder/forage production in the hills has great potential. Malla (1980) estimated that terrace risers constitute about 25% of cultivated land area in the eastern hills, and it may be assumed that a similar proportion is available in the hills throughout the country wherever terraces are made.

Such a large area, (nearly 650,000 ha) could potentially be utilized for grass production on a large scale, and would go a long way towards closing the gap between fodder supply and demand, particularly during the deficit winter period. Malla (1980) showed that the potential yield of Setaria, Chloris, Panicum and Paspalum grass species on terrace risers is 17.0, 12.6, 11.6 and 10.4 mt dry matter/ha/annum respectively.
Therefore, terrace risers in the hills have a production potential in the range of 6.7 to 10.9 million mt of dry matter, provided suitable species are grown. If a 50% TDN content is assumed, this could provide 3.4 to 5.5 million mt TDN. If only 40% and 59% of the available terrace risers could be placed under improved grass cultivation, the production would meet the present deficit of dry matter and TDN respectively. Recommended grass and legumes species for planting in the hill environment are presented in Table 6.

Table 6: Recommended grass/legumes for the hills

Species Sowing Time SeedRate(per ha)Method of sowingFertilizer rate kg/ha) N P KAvailability of greenforageTotal Production (mt/ha)Remarks
OatsMid Oct - Mid Dec100kgThrough land preparation as for crop cultivation60 30 20Upto the 2nd week of Dec60 
Maize+BeanMid Mar - Mid May30+20kgAlternate line sowing of Maize and beans60 60 40Mid June to Mid Oct40–50 
Napier grassMid May - Mid July2400 cuttingsLine planting 75 cm apart180 60 40Mid April to Mid Nov To be planted in Low hills
Desmodium green leaf"2kgBroadcasting in between rows of Napier15 60 0"30"
BerseemMid Sep - Mid Oct (3 weeks before of rice harvesting25kgRelay cropping15 50 0Mid Dec - Mid April70 25.7Upto 1400m asl
TeosinteMid Mar - Mid March35kgLoose cultivated soil90 60 40Mid June - Mid Oct40–50 
VetchMid Oct - Mid Dec35kgLoose cultivated soil15 50 0Mid Dec - Mid April30 
PeaMid Aug Mid Sep35kgLoose cultivated soil15 50 0Mid Oct - Mid Dec15–20 

Source: Shrestha et al (1991).

Annual fodder crops:

With the onset of the monsoon, grass begins to grow again and livestock consume green grass grown naturally during the period June - September. At this time, adequate feed is available for the livestock population. However, there are no deliberate fodder cultivation practices in the existing farming system. After the monsoon, grass dries off from October to the beginning of June. During this period, ruminants have to depend upon crop residues, fodder trees, other forest resources and grazing land. Nutritional requirements of the ruminants are never met either maintenance or for production. Malnutrition for over two-thirds of the year reduces the animals' condition and adversely affects production (Rajbhandari and Shah, 1981).

In the lower altitude areas of Lumle's Research Command Area (RCA), 29 different cropping patterns have been recorded, and the more common of these have been described in Chapter 2. The intensity and type of cropping pattern depends upon a number of factors such as size of landholding, soil type, availability of irrigation, altitude and the size of the family. Within these existing cropping patterns, there is opportunity for a forage component, if it can be introduced without adversely affecting the existing system. This would help to solve some of the crucial constraints on animal feed resources. Shrestha et al (1991) stated that berseem, sown into rice as a relay crop below 1400m asl during October, gave a yield of 7.4 mt/ha by the following March. This utilized the fallow period between the main crop and the spring maize.

Khatri (1990) reported oats plus vetches to be a promising winter forage for the hills between 1000m and 1650m asl.

Conservation and utilization of crop by-products:

In Nepal, green grass is abundant for one-third, and in short supply for two-thirds of the year. During the deficit period, crop by-products play a dominant role in feeding livestock, comprising a large proportion of the basic diet. The type of by-product varies with season, and is dependent upon cropping pattern, climate and altitude, but all are fed some time between November and May throughout the country (see Table 7).

Table 7: Quantity and feeding schedule of crop by-products.

Type of crop by-productFeeding season* Quantity ('000 mt)
Rice StrawNov - April4,400
Wheat StrawNov - Feb1,800
Millet StrawSep - Feb1,200
Maize StoverSep - Feb240
Barley StrawFeb - March43

Source: Dhaubhadel and Tiwari (1991);
* Rajbhandari and Pradhan (1991).

Because of the very low nutritional value of this fibrous feed, the only effective utilizers are ruminant animals, and even ruminants cannot fully utilize the residues because of poor feed intake, low digestibility and low nutritive value (Table 8).

Table 8: Nutritive value of fibrous crop residues (dry matter basis).

By-productsTDN (%)CP (%)
Rice straw40*3.5*
Maize Stover45*5.*
Wheat Straw-7.68**
Millet Straw-6.71**

Source: * Paudel (1985);
** LAC (unpublished data).

The ability of the ruminant digestive tract to utilize non-protein nitrogen as a partial nitrogen source for microbial protein synthesis, means that non-protein nitrogen sources such as urea and urine could be incorporated into the diet, by using them to treat straws. This is especially practical when the existing dietary content of legume or protein supplement is inadequate.

Dhaubhadel and Tiwari (1991) reported that 2% urea solution sprayed onto rice straw 24 hours before feeding to lactating indigenous swamp buffalo, resulted in a significant increase in milk yield. Similarly wheat straw treated with a 4% urea solution increased milk yield in lactating buffaloes by 5%. Chemjong (1989) reported that 4% urea treatment increased the protein content of rice straw by more than 8%. Therefore, treatment of straws with urea or urine can provide substantial amounts of crude protein from the presently available feed resources.


An area which has great potential for fodder/forage production is barren community land, which is underutilized at present. In Nepal, 15.7% of the land apart from the present forested areas of 2.32 million ha, has potential for plantation or pasture development (Table 9), and which, if properly managed, could provide a large amount of grass and tree fodder in addition to other forest products.

Table 9: Potential area for development into forest or pasture in the hills of Nepal ('000 ha.).


Note: NCI = Non-cultivated inclusion.
Source: MPFS (1988).

In the hills alone, the potential area for development into forest or pasture is 1.53 million ha., which is 65.8% of the total potential area of the country. This could provide both fodder and other forest products for villages, although sites for fodder species need to be carefully chosen. Availability of sites for growing fodder trees is limited compared to other species such as pines, which can survive in areas of very low potential.

A case study from Thumako Danda Community Plantation, Khibang (2000m asl) in the Western Hills of Nepal will serve as an example to show how silvipasture can be an important means of overcoming the existing feed deficit.


Thumako Danda plantation in Khibang has an area of 19.2 ha. which was barren in 1976, and was owned by several different farmers who utilized it in various ways. Plantation activities were started in 1976 with initiation and logistical support from Lumle Agricultural Centre, and from the Resource Conservation and Utilization Project (RCUP).

The area was planted with pines, poplar, alder and oaks between 1976 and 1984. The area was protected, because it had traditionally been considered to be one of the main sources of fodder/forage and fuelwood between November and December, when all other areas were exhausted. At the present time, the policy is to harvest grass once a year. The area now provides 24mt of grass on a dry weight basis, plus substantial amounts of fuelwood and tree fodder annually. Paudel and Paudel (1991) estimated that the area could ultimately provide 100mt of wood biomass, 30mt of grass and a substantial amount of fodder tree material annually by 1996.

The farmers maintain the canopy cover of the planted trees, and whenever a decrease in grass yield is noted, trees are thinned or debranched, so as to obtain a constant yield of grass from the area. Only by controlling the tree density, and by giving protection from browsing, can these yields be expected from other areas, which have a similar potential for forest development. The amount of fodder could be further increased by carefully selecting the species of grasses or legumes to be introduced.


Acute shortages of fodder, particularly during the winter season have led to a negative impact on animal production in the whole farming system. Therefore, there is need for timely consideration of this problem, both in terms of animal production and in terms of maintaining the fragile ecosystem of the hills. However, without analysing and understanding the objectives of the farmers within the whole farming system, the programme will not succeed. Proper utilization of all available resources, and coordination and cooperation between institutions at the field level will ensure an increase in total fodder supply in the hills. This will eventually increase productivity of livestock, reduce dependency on forest resources, and help to develop crops, livestock and forests in harmony.


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