Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles


Wong Choi Chee and Chen Chin Peng



2.1 Climate and agro-ecological zones
2.2 Soils and topography



5.1 Commercial production of hay and chaff
5.2 Livestock production based on undergrowth forages
5.3 Integration of timber trees on to improved pastures 
5.4 Production of Leucaena leucocephala leaf fodder products
5.5 Production of oil palm frond (OPF) fodder and OPF- based feeds
5.6 Sweet corn stover silage for feed-lotting cattle
5.7 Production of hydroponic fodder 





Malaysia extends as an arc comprising the Malay Peninsular (or West Malaysia) and Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia), separated by the South China Sea. It lies entirely within the tropics, within latitudes ½ o and 7 o N and longitudes 100 o to 1191/2 o E (Figure 1). 

Fig. 1 Geographical location of Malaysia in relation to its Asian neighbours

Malaysia has a land area of 336,745 km2 spreading over 3 main areas, namely Peninsular Malaysia (131,587 km2), and Sabah (73,711 km2) and Sarawak (123,466 km2). About four-fifths of the Malay Peninsular is covered by forest and swamps, features which are also common in East Malaysia. The inland belt between the coasts and the forested mountainous interior is the agricultural zone, where large areas of rubber and oil palm plantations and smallholdings are to be found, especially in the west. 

Rice cultivation is the major food crop enterprise but priority agricultural systems throughout Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak are based on oil palm, rubber and coconut. There are over 2.8 M ha of oil palm, 1.8 M ha of rubber (85% on Peninsular Malaysia) and approximately 1.0 M ha of coconut, together covering almost 60% of the total agricultural land in Malaysia. In addition, there are 163,000 ha under fruit orchards, 34% of which are durian. Smallholdings, of which the majority are <2.0 ha, represent 76.7% of the agricultural area in Peninsular Malaysia. 

Malaysia with a total population of about 22 M people imported food items worth 9.2 billion Ringgits including vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy products, fish and animal feedstuffs in 1996. Imports reached 10.4 billion Ringgits in 1997. Approximately 2.5 billion Ringgits of this were for livestock products including 70-75% for poultry, 20-25% for swine and 1-2% for ruminants. However, Malaysia is generally self-sufficient in non-ruminant production, and some 10-20% of production is exported (although more than 85% of feed ingredients are imported to support the production of this subsector). 

There has been little growth in ruminant production. In fact, domestic production of ruminants has declined in recent years in spite of a small improvement in cattle and sheep population in the early 1990s (Table 1) and Malaysia is now only 19.8% self-sufficient in beef and mutton and 5.0% in milk. In the last 10 years there have been declining ruminant numbers with annual slaughter rates of cattle - 80,451 head, buffalo - 13,247 head, goat - 30,904 head, and sheep - 8,501 head. The consumption of beef has surged in the past few years from 46,904 tonnes to 88,000 tonnes in 1996 and over 90,000 tonnes in 1999. Mutton imports are estimated to be 12,000 - 15, 000 tonnes per annum. Animal and vegetable proteins intake per capita in 1993 was 25.9 g/day and 28.2g/day, respectively, compared with 16.7 g/day and 33.2 g/day in 1970. The consumption of animal protein is increasing steadily while vegetable protein intake is declining. Hence the overall scenario in livestock production in the country is showing strong demand exceeding domestic production.

There are two farming sectors, namely the smallholders and the large commercial holdings. The smallholders usually have farm sizes of about 1.5 ha (Lai et al. 1973) in the northern paddy areas while along the coastal region and around milk collecting centres in inland areas, farm size varies from 0.3 ha to 1 - 2 ha. Generally about 59% of the farmers have no land for livestock activities, 17% own less than 1 ha and 16% run their operations on 1 - 2 ha of farm land. Large holdings are the commercial plantations where production is well organised for both local and overseas markets.

Table 1: Statistics for ruminant numbers, beef, veal, buffalo meat and milk production, cattle imports and beef and veal imports for Malaysia for the period 1992-2001.
Item 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 2000 2001
Cattle No. (,000) 718.1 735 725 716 693.5 690.8 714.3 723.4 723.4 723.4
Buffalo No. (,000) 194 166 168 164.8 156.8 150.8 160.4 155.2 155.2 155.2
Goat No. (,000) 349.3 319 305 282.5 254.6 241.7 236.3 231.8 231.8 231.8
Sheep No. (,000) 276.1 261.6 248.6 221.7 187.4 167.4 165.8 174.7 174.7 174.7
Beef & veal prod. (,000 mt) 13.2 14.2 15.1 16.3 17.1 18.1 17.6 19.8 19.8 19.8
Milk prod. (,000 mt) 40.5 41.2 43.6 44.7 43.8 45.0 46.6 48.1 49.1 50.1
Cattle imports (,000) 41.0 36.6 37.7 45.9 91.4 121.0 45 105.5 58.7 n.r.
Beef & veal imports (,000 mt) 47.2 47.3 54.1 62.0 71.0 71.0 63.5 73.1 15.3 n.r.
Mutton and lamb imports (,000 mt) 8.2 8.1 8.6 10.4 13.8 12.0 11.8 12.5 14.8 n.r.
Source: FAO Database 2002


2.1 Climate and agroecological zones

Malaysia is characterised by a humid tropical climate with heavy rainfall (2540 mm p.a. and above), average daily temperatures of 21-32oC and humidity averaging about 85%. Due to small seasonal variation in incoming solar radiation, the annual difference in daylength is only 2 minutes along the equator and 49 minutes in northern regions, giving a daylength of 12.30 hours year round (Nieuwolt l982). The long term annual rainfall mean in Peninsular Malaysia generally exceeds 1,600 mm, and is well over 2,500 mm in many areas (Dale 1959). The mean annual rainfall in Sarawak is between 2,500 and 5,000 mm, and is fairly well distributed with no month below 100 mm (Andriesse l968). Similar rainfall conditions exist in Sabah which is moist and wet throughout the year especially towards the interior with the exception of the rainshadow areas between Tenom and Keningau, in Kagopon in the west coast and Semporna in the southeast and Tg. Malandong north of Davel Bay. Rainfall is affected by the North - East (November - March) and South - West (June-August) monsoons which bring heavy rainfall. For the months April-May and September-October, less rain is experienced because of changes in monsoonal winds. 

Based on 30 years of wet and dry season records (expressed as a percent of potential evapotranspiration in moist and/or wet months) and considering the physical constraints, soils and crop suitabilities, 12 agroclimatic zones of the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak have been mapped which include 15 of the major crops in the country (Anon. 1992). 

Rubber and oil palm are the major agricultural enterprises over the country with the exception of the highlands and in areas where there are 4 consecutive dry months. The most suitable climate for mango and sugarcane is found in the northern section of Perlis, in Kudat, parts of Tenom, and Bahagian Pendalaman of Sabah, and in Sarawak. 

Pineapple is grown in small areas in Ranau, Tawau, Kudat, north of Niah Suai Sibuti, and in Pontian, at the southern end of the Peninsula. Banana is found in Jelebu, Tangkak and scattered along the coastal alluvium of the Peninsula. It is also found in Tawau, Sandakan, Patai Barat and Keningau in Sabah, Batu Kawa and is spreading in other areas of Sarawak. Durian is suited to Niah Suai Sibuti and in the northwest of Bahagian Pertama. Cocoa which needs partial shade and richer soils, is being integrated with coconut along the coastal alluvium in the Peninsula and is grown on the best volcanic soil in Tawau, Sandakan,Keningau, Ranau in Sabah, in Batu Kawa, Bintulu, Bahagian Keempat and Kelima in Sarawak. Pepper, a major production in Sarawak is grown on sedentary soil, in Bahagian Tawau and Sandakan, Bahagian Pendalaman, Sipitang and Kota Belud in Sabah. Coconut is largely found along the coastal plains on alluvial soils and is mainly grown by smallholders and big plantations near Teluk Intan. Rice is cultivated at various places in Sabah, in Batu Kawa, Bintulu and Niah Suai Sibuti in Sarawak, whereas the double cropping of paddy occurs in Kedah and Kelantan.

2.2 Soils and topography

The topography of Peninsular Malaysia is characterized by the central mountain ranges running from north to south. The highest peak, Gunung Tahan, is 2,187 m a.s.l. In Sabah and Sarawak, a similar topogaraphy of high mountain ranges occurs in the interior, with all ranges below 1,800 m except Mt Kinabalu, which at 4,101 m a.s.l., is the highest peak in S.E. Asia. A number of large rivers such as Sungai Rajang, Sungai Baram in Sarawak and Sungai Kinabatangan in Sabah, originate from these mountainous areas.

The soils of Malaysia can be divided broadly into 2 groups: (a) the sedentary soils formed in the interior on a wide range of rock types, and (b) the soils of the coastal alluvial plains (Nieuwolt et al. 1982). The sedentary soils are developed on igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, and are strongly weathered with mostly kaolinitic clay minerals. The sedentary soils fall under the classification order of Nitosols, Acrisols, and Ferralsols (Ultisols, Oxisols). Nutrient deficiencies of Ca, Cu, Mg, Mo and Zn can depress the yield of legumes (Tham and Kerridge 1982).

The coastal alluvial soils which fall under the categories Gleysols, Cambisols, Podzols (Entisols, Inceptisols, Spodosols) can be grouped into four main types of soils:

  • The predominantly fine-textured clay and clay loam soils covering large areas of the west coast of the peninsula. Soils on the east coast consist mainly of kaolinitic clays and are relatively coarse textured. Clay loam soils can also be found in small areas in Sarawak. 
  • There are about 2.7 M hectares of peat and organic soils in Malaysia with 1.66 M ha in Sarawak, 984,000 ha in Peninsular Malaysia, and 86,000 in Sabah, accounting for about 8% of the total land area. The characteristics of peat are low pH of 3.0 - 4.5, low base saturation of calcium and potassium, low in the nutrients N, S, Mo, and deficient in the nutrients B, Cu and Zn.
  • The acid sulphate soils scattered along the west coast plains in Peninsular Malaysia and the Sarawak river, cover approximately 100,000 ha. Pyrite can be as high as 10% at 25-100 cm depth, water soluble iron 400 ppm when submerged for 2 weeks, pH 2.7-3.3 with exchangeable aluminium 5-24 meq/100 g soil.
  • The sandy soils (bris soils) spread along the east coast of the Peninsula and the coastal area of Sabah, cover an area of just under 200,000 ha with 155,400 ha in Peninsular Malaysia and 40,400 ha in Sabah. Bris soils contain 82-99% sand particles, mainly quartz, and have a low CEC of 9.53 meq/100 g with pH 4.3-4.4. Pasture plants growing in bris soils respond to treatment with the nutrients P, K, Ca, Cu, S, B, Mo and Mg. 
  • The peat, acid sulphate and bris soils are problem soils, and are difficult to manage for both crop and pasture production, and in particular for legumes. 


    Comparing ruminant and non-ruminant sectors, it is the non-ruminant sector that has made greatest progress over the last three decades. This is reflected in Malaysia’s self-sufficiency in pork, poultry meat and eggs. However, large scale commercialisation has taken place at a very high cost (>US$800 M in terms of imported feed ingredients - mainly maize and protein supplements). In contrast, ruminant production has recorded poor growth rates and current beef, goat meat and mutton requirements are largely met by imports. The indigenous ruminants, with the exception of swamp buffaloes, have been the subject of improvement through the introduction of exotic breeds. Currently, more than 90% of the ruminant population in Malaysia are still in the hands of small farmers who traditionally do not grow pastures for animals. This compares with the larger commercial and government farms which have proper infrastructure and established pastures which produce around 5 % of the total output.

    There are three broad categories of ruminant production systems: (a) Extensive livestock systems, (b) Systems combining livestock with arable cropping, and (c ) Systems integrating livestock with tree cropping (Devendra 1996): 

    a) Extensive systems are practised by villagers along the coastal plains. Livestock are owned in small numbers and cut fodders are prepared for night supplemental feeding. Few farmers plant improved pastures as more than 59% of these farmers have no land. They search for green forages on a daily basis, often from several kilometers away.

    b) Systems combining ruminants with arable cropping are frequently seen in paddy and annual cropping areas. Some fodders are grown in backyards and some crop residues are used for supplementary stall feeding. During the off season, animals are free to roam or are tethered for grazing.

    Most buffaloes and Kedah Kelantan (KK) cattle of both the (a) and (b) production systems are reported to suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Reproductive rates of 54.6% and 83.3% were recorded for buffaloes and cattle respectively, with first calving after 4 years of age (Wan Zahari and Devendra 1985). This indicates that feed resources in these areas pose serious constraints to animal production.

    c) Systems integrated with tree cropping are now slowly being taken up by both the larger plantation owners and smallholders. Grazing with proper management under tree crops saves 20-40% of weeding costs, reduces the use of weedicides and improves production of the tree crop (Ani et al. 1985, Chen and Harun 1994). Better daily liveweight gain of 316 g/head with higher slaughter weight of 322 kg/head of Kedah-Kelantan cattle was obtained when compared with N-fertilized guinea pastures (Panicum maximum) which gave 273 g/head with a lower finishing weight of 281 kg/head. However, only 5 - 33% of the animal production per hectare was obtained under the integrated system compared with that recorded from ranch pastures (Chen et al. 1996). This was due to the low carrying capacity per unit land area that can be sustained under tree crops. The low carrying capacity of forage was directly influenced by the low light transmission (10-20 % of full sunlight) during the mature phase of the plantation crop. 

    Efforts to screen and select shade tolerant forages with high dry matter productivity and persistence have not been successful. Under very low light, native forages comprising ferns, herbaceous dicotyledons, cover crops and grasses continue to be relatively more productive than improved tropical pastures. Most improved pastures are not tolerant to shade. There are alternative production packages ready for adoption particularly for oil palm systems where utilization of oil palm by-products including palm kernel cake, palm oil mill effluent, palm press fibre, oil palm frond , oil palm trunk, etc. are readily available (Abu Hassan 1995). It is very likely that this will become the major livestock production system in the country. Dairy production farms have been established in the highlands of Sabah and Sarawak, and there are 32 Milk Collection Centres and associated dairy projects, in the lowlands in Peninsula Malaysia (Hassan and Devendra 1982).

    Milk production from grazing Sahiwal x Friesian (SxF) hybrid cows on N-fertilized tropical grasses averaged 2,000 kg/head/lactation period of 335 days. When grazing on leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) - signal (Brachiaria decumbens) pastures, milk yield from SxF cows was around 8,577 - 9,180 kg/ha without concentrate; and 13,323 - 17,070 kg/ha with 4-6 kg supplement per cow. Through improved management practices comprising grazing of 17-19 day old signal grass with a minimum supplement of 1.3 kg concentrate/cow, the increase in milk production of SxF cows averaged 5-7.2 litre/cow/day. As a consequence, the cost of concentrates was reduced by about 30% on-farm.

    Chen and Yuen (1995) in their review reported that improved signal grasspasture was adaptable to a wide range of edaphic and eco-climatic conditions and could support stocking rates from 1,656 - 2,173 kg/ha of liveweight biomass in continuous grazing systems. These pastures were fertilised with 300 kg N/ha/year and produced 902 kg/ha in liveweight gain. With lower input systems at farm level, carrying capacity was 1,492 - 1,574 kg/ha liveweight biomass. However, the aggressive Brachiaria swards give little room for companion legumes. Conversely, a well managed guinea pasture with legumes, or setaria (Setaria sphacelata cv Kazungula) mixed with legumes could sustain 4.0-4.5 head/ha of KK cattle or 900-1,000 kg/ha biomass liveweight. Pasture yield on offer was 2,000-3,000 kg/ha DM and it produced 410 kg/ha/year in liveweight gain.


    Several hundreds of improved tropical pasture accessions have been introduced and evaluated at different ecological environments over the last 20 years by the pasture research team in MARDI, and promising species and genera have been identified (Wong et al. l982, Wong and Mohd Najib 1988). The Digitaria genus, Brachiaria humidicola and B. dictyoneura are adapted to the bris soils; B. humidicola and Tripsacum andersonii (Guatemala grass) are important on acid sulphate soil and in areas with a high water table; while on peat, napier (Pennisetum purpureum) is outstanding. Other promising grasses including guinea (Panicum maximum) and signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens) are able to perform in any of the sedentary and alluvial soils and in all agroclimatic zones. In the highlands, napier, guinea, signal, Guatemala and kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum) and Nandi setaria (Setaria sphacelata cv Nandi) have good production records, while the legumes, Desmodium intortum cv Greenleaf and Desmodium uncinatum cv Silverleaf have performed well. The latter has shown vigorous growth and seed setting.

    In the lowlands, commonly used legumes are centro (Centrosema pubescens), calopo (Calopogonium mucunoides), puero (Pueraria phaseoloides) and Desmodium ovalifolium, often as ground covers in the plantations. Recently, the good performance of the stylo accession CIAT 184 (Stylosanthes guianensis) and Aeschynomene americana have attracted attention due to their characteristics of good seeding and acid soil tolerance. Among leguminous fodder trees screened, Leucaena leucocephala remains the best in terms of production and persistence. Two Leucaena hybrid lines, Bharu and Rendang, tolerant to acidic soils and the psyllid insect have been successfully selected and released. Arachis pintoi, a promising legume is proving more attractive to the landscapers than for use as forage. 

    In the mid 1960s in Peninsular Malaysia, a dramatic shift in the paddy planting system took place from rainfed single cropping to an irrigated double cropping system. As a consequence, there was a serious shortage of space and of forage for livestock production. However, by the mid 1980s, ruminant production started to migrate slowly from the granary areas towards the plantations where adequate native forages are available to support a moderate level of animal production.

    Large areas of grazing reserve (communal grazing land) are available in Sabah (96,479 ha), Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia (38,000 ha). In the mid 1970s, improved pastures were established as part of 8 commercial ranch operations (9,682 ha - six farms in Peninsular Malaysia, and one each in Sabah and Sarawak) developed by the then, National Livestock Authority (Majuternak), with the aim of increasing commercial livestock production. Current areas of ranch pastures total approximately 25,000 ha in Peninsular Malaysia, 5,000 ha in Sabah and 20,000 ha in Sarawak. Although high animal production on both the N-based (700-900 kg/ha/year) and legume-based (410-433 kg/ha/year) pastures have been recorded (Chen 1985), these pastures face some problems of persistence especially in terms of legume content. The problems are mainly linked with the need to ameliorate the poor tropical soils which have high saturation of aluminium (60-80%) and low soil pH (4.0-5.5). Malaysian experience in ranching of animals on tropical pastures, suggests that it takes about 10-12 years to break-even on the investment because of the heavy initial capital input and high interest rate of bank loans (Clayton 1983). Another problem that hinders the development of tropical pastures in the non-seeding/poor seed setting of most of the promising pasture species due to the unfavourable climate in Malaysia for seed production. However, there are a few species such as the grasses: ruzi (Brachiaria ruziziensis) and guinea, and the legumes: A. pintoi, and Stylosanthes guianensis CIAT 184 which have been identified for small scale production of seed for local needs.

    5. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES The country has low sufficiency levels for ruminant products (20% for beef and 10% for sheep), and significant numbers of cattle are imported from elsewhere in the region, notably Australia. There is considerable scope for the development of forage resources for intensive ruminant production and commercialization of the livestock industry in the near future. These include:

    5.1 Commercial production of hay and chaff 

    Preliminary work on the mechanised production of grass and legume hay was successfully carried out by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) farm at Ijok Selangor in the mid-seventies. About 9,750 tonnes of grass hay was produced as a contingency feed supply for ruminants to overcome forage shortages during adverse seasons. With the accelerated growth of the equine industry, the demand for hay and chaff has increased greatly. 

    In 1996, 8,141 tonnes, valued at RM 3.37 million, of fodder/forage produce such as hay, chaff, fodder roots, grass/legume/leaf meal or pellets as well as vegetative wastes/residues such as cereal straws were imported. These were mainly used for monogastric livestock (poultry and pigs), equines, zoos, as well as other recreational animals. Local grass hay made from guinea grass or signal grass, with crude protein contents ranging from 11 to 14 % dry matter and metabolisable energy of ranging from 7 to 8 Mcal/kg, is comparable with or even better than imported hay and chaff derived from cereal crops or meadow. Locally grown stylo legume (Stylosanthes guianensis) hay, previously produced on a limited scale, can make very good hay when harvested young. Local production of grass and legume hay, and its subsequent conversion to chaff, has the potential to be turned into a commercial venture. At present, hay is imported at a high price of RM 800 to RM 1400 per tonne, depending on type, quality and country of origin. Chaff is imported at RM 1500 per tonne. Thus, there is scope for locally produced hay or chaff to make inroads into this market. The financial cash flow analysis of a small scale 200 ha hay project based totally on sun-curing for drying, shows a Net Present Value (NPV) @ 10% of RM645,324, Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) @ 10% of 1.30, and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 39%. The problem will be ensuring continuous production throughout the year. During part of the year, climatic conditions may hamper on-field sun-curing. A commercial company has proposed a large scale project of 400-600 ha incorporating modern solar drying technology for second stage in-barn drying to regularise production throughout the year. The financial cash flow analysis of this business proposal indicates excellent economic viability with sound NPV and BCR figures at 10% and 15%, and IRR above 47%.

    5.2 Livestock production based on undergrowth forages

    In Malaysia, 1.8 million and 2.8 M ha of land are cultivated with rubber and oil palm respectively. On this vast expanse of land, understorey vegetation serves as a useful forage resource for the feeding of ruminant livestock. The feeding value of the ground vegetation has been reported as comparable to the improved grasses cultivated locally, if not sometimes better, and has good potential as a forage resource.

    Using a rotational grazing system with single line electric fencing, a suitable stocking rate, and selective weeding of non-edible or noxious species, the vegetation under mature rubber and oil palm can be modified to increase the proportion of high quality, shade tolerant, broadleaved species such as Asystasia intrusa. This species contains 24.4% protein at 4 weeks, 21.1% at 6 weeks and 16-18% even at 10 - 12 weeks. 

    The potential of the undergrowth forages in both rubber and oil palm areas as an economic forage resource has already been taken advantage of by the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) and the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (RISDA) for the commercial rearing of beef cattle. A financial cash flow analysis of a typical beef integration project of 100 breeders shows that livestock integration with rubber and oil palm is a viable proposition with favourable NPV discounted at 10% of RM237,610, BCR equal to 1.18 and Simple Rate of Return (SRR) at 16%. The cattle serve as "biological lawn mowers" and because of this, an integrated enterprise includes savings from reduced costs of chemical weeding, both in terms of material and labour, as an added cost benefit. Presently, even with the good income derived from the current upbeat price of palm oil, the management of both FELDA and RISDA still find it rewarding to integrate livestock on their schemes and plantations. Other plantation groups have since followed suit. This indicates that monetary gain, both from cost-saving in weeding as well as income generated by the livestock business, is worth the extra effort, time and capital. 

    5.3 Integration of timber trees on to improved pastures

    The economic viability of cattle ranching based on fully improved pastures can be enhanced through a new concept of integrating timber trees with the improved pastures. The trees have a dual role of increasing shading for grazing animals while, in the long term, providing timber. Shading improves cattle productivity through reduced heat stress and longer hours of grazing. Scheduled introduction of timber trees onto the pasture in a specially designed configuration ensures that the existing pasture remains productive under the increased shade. The commercial value of the trees are realised when trees are thinned after a few years or are finally harvested after 15 years or more.

    Timber trees are suggested because they have little management or operational needs and involve low expenditure, unlike fruit trees or oil palm. This concept of phased cultivation of timber trees on cattle farms to enhance economic viability through income from timber, is reportedly practised in New Zealand and Australia. Locally, this option is being studied for DVS farms, where 5000 Sentang (Azadirachta excelsa) trees have been cultivated on 4 hectares of B. decumbens pasture at Padang Hijau, Johor using a monocropping planting pattern with spacing of 4m x 3m. It is important to note that, in the case of DVS, the priority goal for tree introduction onto pasture is provision of shading to increase productivity of grazing animals, while income from timber remains a secondary consideration.

    The cost of the DVS project was RM 2.48 per tree inclusive of land preparation, seedling acquisition, planting and basal fertiliser application. Maintenance costs were another RM 0.37 per tree annually comprising two rounds each of compound NPK fertiliser and herbicide applications. Over twenty years, the total cost of planting and maintaining a single Sentang tree is projected at RM 9.88. Full grown Sentang trees reportedly fetch RM 1000 as timber. It has been found to be economically feasible to establish a 40 hectare monocrop Sentang plantation either for a 15 year or 20-year rotation. Both rotations show positive NPV, BCR and IRR figures. In another case, the cost of planting and maintenance of a 0.4 ha plantation consisting of 500 Sentang trees planted at 2m x2m , was RM 5,320 for 10 years while the income from sale of timber on the 10th year amounted to RM107,500, giving an average income of RM 10,218/year. Where agroclimatic conditions allow, other species of timber trees, such as Teak (Tectona grandis), can also be considered. This latter species is reported to fetch RM10,000 per tree as timber.

    5.4 Production of Leucaena leucocephala leaf fodder products

    Leucaena had been widely promoted as a popular browse fodder species until the psyllid (Heteropsylla cubana Crawford) infestation became a major problem in many countries in the Pacific and South East Asia.

    The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) has recently released two acid-tolerant, psyllid-resistant hybrids, 40-1-18 and 62-6-8 (Bharu and Rendang). These new hybrids showed resistance to psyllids in comparison to the ML1 variety which has been popularly grown since the first leucaena introductions.

    With the advent of acid-tolerant and psyllid resistant hybrids, it is again timely to re-consider leucaena as a forage and, more importantly, to look into the possibility of commercially producing leucaena leaf fodder products in the form of meal, pellet, wafer or cube. Work by MARDI has indicated the technical feasibility of converting the leaves into dried wafer. 

    5.5 Production of oil palm frond (OPF) fodder and OPF- based feeds

    Another potential forage supply is the commercialisation of oil palm frond (OPF) fodder. The MARDI/TARC (Tropical Agriculture Research Centre, Japan) collaborative study from 1987 to 1990 reported the chemical composition of oil palm leaf, minus petiole, to consist of 14.8 % crude protein, 3.2% crude fat, 6.5 % nitrogen cell wall free extract, 16.6 % cellulose, 27.6% hemi-cellulose, 27.6 % lignin and 3.8% silica. The study also cited that, in the next decade, more than 18 million tonnes of felled and pruned fronds are estimated to be produced annually. 

    Freshly chopped OPF is commercially marketed as a valuable forage by a small company, Idaman Ternak, as basal feed for cattle in feedlots at the Perak Meat Industries at Lumut. JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency), MARDI and DVS are jointly studying the technical feasibility and economic viability of large scale production of dried OPF fodder products and OPF-based feed for both the local and export market. RISDA has announced (New Straits Times, 5 June 1998) that it plans to produce cattle feed using palm fronds in cooperation with MARDI. 

    5.6 Sweet corn stover silage for feed-lotting cattle

    Sweet corn stover, when ensiled, provides reasonably good value feed for ruminants. Commercial sweet corn enterprises can add economic value by integrating with cattle feedlots to supply ensiled corn stover. This concept has been put into practice over the last 2-3 years in a joint cooperation programme between the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and DVS. In a small scale commercial set-up involving 4 ha (3.5 hectares for the corn crop and 0.5 hectare for the silo/feedlot), a financial gross margin analysis of the feedlotting component showed a net return of RM14,000 per year from 15 head of feeder cattle and RM27,000 per year from 30 head of feeder cattle based on single and double cropping enterprises respectively. These figures are equivalent to RM3,505 and RM6,940 per ha respectively. Sourcing of feeder cattle however remains the major constraint.

    5.7 Production of hydroponic fodder

    A commercial hydroponic fodder system has been introduced into the country by a foreign company, working in technical collaboration with the Department of Animal Science, UPM. UPM is studying the technical feasibility and economic viability of feeding the hydroponic fodder to local animals, while the company is testing the marketability of the system and the product locally. The system, hailed as "landless fodder production" consists of an imported environmentally controlled cabin for hydroponically germinating and growing barley grass for feeding. 

    Hydroponic fodder has excellent nutritive value as it is fed to animals in its entirety - roots, seed, and green foliage. The hydroponic fodder can be grown from grains such as oats, barley, rye, wheat, sorghum or corn. Each kg of hydroponic cereal grass fodder is equivalent nutritionally to 3 kg of fresh alfalfa. Locally, however, the commercial marketability of the imported system is directed mainly at high value animals, such as equines, and livestock producing high value products, including high producing dairy cows, milk goats, deer and ostriches. With the relevant experience and technical expertise available in the country, there is opportunity for developing cheaper hydroponic fodder units to enhance their economic viability for a broader spectrum of animal or livestock. Locally fabricated versions should include more local elements in their construction as well as use seeds which are cheaper and do not need temperature regulation.


    Since 1994, a joint project undertaken by MARDI and DVS has indicated the technical feasibility of producing seeds of ruzi grass (B. ruziziensis), guinea grass (P. maximum) and stylo CIAT 184 legume ( S. guianensis), through both manual and mechanised harvesting, giving average yields of 186, 120 and 165 kg/ha respectively. More than 5 tonnes of B. ruziziensisseeds alone have been produced since project inception. Production of Leucaena and Arachis pintoi seeds is also being studied. There are currently 7,000 trees of acid tolerant and psyllid resistant Leucaena hybrids (40-1-18 and 62-6-8) cultivated as 'mother' trees from which seeds are being harvested. 

    Seeds are currently imported for use as pasture as well as in soil erosion control and landscaping. Besides being a useful forage, A. pintoi is in high demand for erosion control and landscaping. Ruzi grass can replace the more commonly imported B. decumbens both as pasture for cattle as well as for erosion control. Local forage seed production is attractive in small scale commercial ventures because of the high prices of imported seeds, eg. RM24 per kg for ruzi grass seeds, RM42 per kg for guinea grass seeds, and RM30 to RM51 per kg for A. pintoi seeds. Compared to these prices, the cost of producing seeds locally is only RM9 per kg.


    Institution Name Current research/development project

    GPO Box 12301

    50774 Kuala Lumpur


    Wong Choi Chee

    (Plant Physiology)

    Mohd Najib Mohd Amin

    (Soil Nutrition)

    Aminah Abdullah (Agronomy)

    1. Feed budgeting for animal production

    2. Modelling of livestock-tree cropping production

    3. Utilization of shrub legumes for animal production

    4. Forage leaf meal production

    5. Forage seed production

    University Putra


    Dept. Agron.

    43400 UPM, Serdang 

    Selangor DE. Malaysia

    Ridzwan A. Halim


    1. The productivity and persistence of legumes under shade

    2. Utilization of fodder trees for supplemental feeding

    Dept. of Veterinary

    Services, 9th Floor,

    Exchange Sq. 50630

    Kuala Lumpur,


    Chin Fook Yuen


    Idris A. Bakar


    1. Improving forage quality through critical pasture

    management and utilization

    2. Pasture management under ranch grazing reserves

    Dept. of Veterinary

    Services and animal


    Locked Bag 2051

    88999 Kota. Kinabalu

    Sabah, Malaysia

    Chew Chong Thai 


    1. Pasture assessment and animal production
    Dept. of Agriculture

    Kuching, Sarawak


    Ng Thai Tsiung


    1. Pasture assessment and animal production


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    For further information on forages in Malaysia, please contact:
    Name: Dr. Wong Choi Chee/ Puan Aminah Abdulla.
    Address : Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI)
    G.P.O. Box 12301, 50774 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 
    e-mail: <>  <>
    Fax: 603-9485053; 603-9483664 
    Tel: 603-9437380

    This pasture resource profile for Malaysia was initially compiled in December 1998 by Drs Wong Choi Chee and Chen Chin Peng and edited by the Forage Team in MARDI. Final editing was by HM Shelton at FAO, Rome in 1999. In November 2002 statistics for livestock number and production were updated by S.G. Reynolds.