Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles


Stephen Lee

1. Introduction

2. Climate and agro-ecological zones

3. Soils and topography

4. Ruminant livestock production systems

5. Constraints to development of pasture-based livestock systems

6. The pasture resource

6.1 Improved pasture grass varieties
6.2 Improved legume varieties
6.3 Weed control
6.4 Recent initiatives in forage improvement

7. Organizations and personnel involved in pasture research development

8. References

9. Contacts


Samoa consists of two main islands of volcanic origin, Upolu (1100 km2) and Savaii (1800 km2) and several small ones (Figure 1a). Other inhabited islands are Manono and Apolima. The country forms the western part of the 500 km long Samoan archipelago, with American Samoa 100 km to the east. It is located in the South Pacific between 171 & 172o W and 14 & 13o S (Figure 1b). In 1962, Samoa became the first country in the Pacific to gain independence. It was known as Western Samoa until 1997 when the name was changed to Samoa. Apia, with a population of nearly 37,000, is the capital.

The total land area is about 2,935 km² with an exclusive economic zone of 120,000 km², which is the smallest in the South Pacific.


Figure 1a - Map of Samoa (Source: World Factbook).

Figure 1b – Location of Samoa (Source: www.worldatlas).

Samoa is ecologically fragile and vulnerable to environmental degradation of its natural resources. Because of its location, it is exposed to natural disasters - demonstrated by a succession of highly destructive cyclones: Ofa in February 1990 and Val in December 1991, which caused widespread damage to the country's economic base and infrastructure. Cyclone Heta in 2004 caused some damage in Samoa, but mainly affected Tonga, Niue, and American Samoa. Cyclone Cyril in February 2012 also caused much damage in Samoa and nearby American Samoa and in Tonga. Another cyclone (Cyclone Evan) caused much damage and loss of life in Samoa in December 2012. In September 2009 a magnitude 8 earthquake near Samoa led to a large tsunami which resulted in loss of life and much damage in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga.

In 1995 the population was around 169,000 people of which 90% were ethnic Samoans. The natural rate of population growth was around 2.4% per annum; however, emigration has reduced the actual population growth to 0.6% per annum (Tevita, 1995). In the 2006 census the population was 180,741 and the preliminary figure for the 2011 census is 186,340. According to the World Factbook the July 2012 estimated population is higher at 194,320, with a growth rate of 0.596%. The SPC (SPC, 2012) mid-year 2020 population estimate is 188,357. Most people live in villages on or near the coast and normally farm the coastal strip and directly inland to the highest point or ridge line. There is a strong trend for people to move from rural areas to the capital, Apia, seeking better work and income opportunities.

With the exception of land owned by government and institutions (mainly churches), land in Samoa is held under customary title. The matai, or holder of the customary title, is entrusted with the management of the land which cannot be sold. The matai in turn, distributes land to his or her extended family for their use. Village councils and the Land and Titles Court are active in allocating unused land and settling disputes over claims to land.

Table 1: Samoa statistics for livestock numbers, beef/veal, pig meat and milk production, cattle imports and meat and milk imports for the period 1995-2010.












2008 2009


Cattle nos. (,000)

26 27.9* 28 28 28 29 30 30 30 30 30 30* 30

Pig nos.

170 167 170 201 201 201 201 201 201 202 202 202 202

Beef & veal prod. (Mt)

971 1000 995 1053 1300 1100 1000 1100 1100 1100 1100 1100 1100

Pig meat
. (Mt)

3400 3471 3500 3800 4184 4294 3654 3800 3763 4000 3969 4500 4700

Milk prod. (Mt)

1272 1450 1500 1538 1634 1604 1632 1610 1642 1638 1589 1617 1500

Cattle imports

1600 - - - 1827 - - - - - - - -

Mutton and lamb imports (Mt)

3600 3000 4000 4700 3700 3000 2299 2300 2602 2478 2477 2250 1603

Fresh milk imports (Mt)

1800 1650 2100** 2000 1250 1054 1227 1125 920 879 1720 1600** 2734

Beef & veal imports (Mt)

410 750 700 800 1087 697 741 618 812 849 786 746 640

Chicken meat imports (Mt)

3000 3700 4100 4800 4045 6160 4816 7091+ 4445 6022 7191 7489+ 9660

Source: FAOSTAT 2012 .
*Agriculture Census 1999 gave total cattle population as 29,133 head and the 2009 Agriculture Census listed the total cattle population as 38,954.
**In 2000 total milk equivalent imports were 6,009 Mt. and in 2010
they were 7,122 Mt.
+ In addition in 2005 and 2010 respectively some 364 and 307Mt of pig meat and pig meat preparations were imported.

 [For up-to-date livestock information refer to FAOSTAT -Agriculture <  >]


Samoa's economy is based on primary production, much of it at subsistence level. Crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry accounted for 42% of GDP in early 2000, but has fallen in recent years. World Bank (2012) suggests that the agriculture sector's contribution to GDP dropping from 19 percent in 1995 to 12 percent in 2009. However, agriculture continues to play an important role in the economy, employing around two-thirds of the national labour force. About 18,000 rural households live in the 360 villages of the two main islands, Upolu and Savai'i. The main crops produced are coconut (Cocos nucifera), cocoa (Theobroma cacao) and banana (Musa spp.). A major staple, as well as export crop, was taro (Colocasia esculenta), but production has declined due to taro leaf blight (Phytophera colocasia). Because of the destructive effects of cyclones and taro blight, farmers have sought to diversify to ta’amu (Alocasia spp.), ava (Piper methysticum), and cattle production (Lee, 1995a). In addition to agricultural exports, the Samoan economy is dependent on tourism, fisheries, development aid and family remittances from overseas.

The 1999 Agricultural Census confirmed the limited involvement of Samoans in commercial agriculture. Three-quarters of the population belonged to 14,725 agriculturally active households, but only 960 (6.5%) of these households were commercial producers, and only 8.1% of them had taken out loans for an agricultural purpose. The other agriculturally active households produced mainly for home consumption (7,549), or entirely for home consumption (6,216), while 1,597 households engaged in minor agricultural activity and 4,199 households were classified as non-agricultural. The large majority of agricultural holdings were less than 10 acres and few exceeded 50 acres.  Ninety-one percent of cultivation took place on customary land, with freehold accounting for 6.1%, leased Government land 1.7%, leased customary land 0.8% and leased freehold 0.4% (Anon., 2008).

According to FAO estimates Samoa has a cattle herd of around 28 - 30,000 head producing approximately 1,100 tonnes of beef and veal and 1,500-1,600 tonnes of milk annually (Table 1). However, results obtained in the 1999 and 2009 Agriculture Censuses indicate that cattle numbers are higher than FAO estimates, with 29,133 in 1999 and 38,954 in 2009. The 2009 census also indicated that there were: 152,145 pigs, 307,060 chickens, 128 goats, 249 sheep and 1,259 horses. Following the importation of 1,600 cattle from Australia in 1995, a further importation of just under 2,000 head of cattle (1,827) to boost the national herd took place in 2002 by ship from Townsville, Australia. Imports of mutton, beef, chicken meat (and pork) and fresh milk are considerable (Table 1).


The climate does not vary greatly through the year. The wet season lasts from October to March and the dry season from April to September. The average annual rainfall ranges from 2000 - 7000 mm, although most areas receive <4000 mm, the highlands of both main islands receive 5000-7000 mm, whilst the North-West coastal areas of Upolu and Savaii receive 2000-3000 mm. The relative humidity averages 80%, and there is an average of 2,500 hours of sunshine per annum. Temperature and rainfall data for Apia and Faleolo/Tongitito are shown in Figures 2a and 2b.

Figure 2a. Mean monthly temperature for Apia, Samoa (1970-1990). [Source: < >]

Figure 2b. Monthly average rainfall at two locations in Samoa. [Source: < >]

The climate is heavily influenced by the mountainous nature of Samoa. Sea winds which are predominantly south-east trades blow gently for much of the year and drop their moisture against the slopes of islands. Temperatures are seasonally uniform with the mean maximum temperature ranging from 27 to 30o C and the mean minimum temperature ranging from 20 to 23o C (Wright, 1963).

Essentially, all areas are in the category of humid tropical climate. The driest area (Western Savaii) having a rainfall of around 2200 mm p.a., with partial drought for 2-3 months in a normal year (Wright, 1963).

The highlands experience no dry season. Western areas of both islands typically experience a moderate dry season with 2-3 months of very dry (<60mm) and 3-4 months of moderately dry weather (<100mm). Most other areas experience weak dry seasons, of 0-1 very dry months and 1-3 moderately dry months.

Whilst there are a number of soil types, land can be fairly accurately divided into a small number of agro-ecological zones for pastoral production.

  • Steep lands
  • Young lava flow
  • Higher slopes (above 300 m) and central plateaux
  • Wet south coast areas (below 300 m)
  • Very wet north coast areas of Savaii (below 300 m)
  • Moderately wet north coast areas (below 300 m)
  • Moderately drought affected east coast areas

There are very few permanently flowing streams and lakes. Watercourses will often flow only during and for a few hours after intense rain. This lack of surface water makes water supply a problem for many farmers.


Soils are almost entirely volcanic derived, except for a few small areas of coastal (coral) sands. Upolu is a rugged chain of volcanic cones forming a crested ridge rising to 1100 m. Savaii consists of broad coalescing domes topped by numerous cones, the highest of which rise to 1800 m (Kear and Wood, 1959).

The volcanoes and their resultant soils generally decrease in age from east to west. In Savaii, where the last volcanic eruption was in 1905, there are still areas of virtually barren lava flow.

The land mass of each island rises gently from the sea (with the exception of eastern Uplou which rises very steeply). Therefore, in most areas there is a flat to gently undulating coastal plain (1-2 degrees) which passes into gently rolling slopes (2 -5 degrees). These in turn, merge into steeper foothills (5-15 degrees) which continue, sometimes steeply (15-25 degrees), until the upland plateau level is reached at about 600 m in Uplou and eastern Savaii, and at 1200 m in central Savaii (Wright, 1963). The slopes are often dissected by almost-vertical sided valleys. In general, the upland plateaux are rolling and surmounted by extinct volcanic cones. The land surface is uneven due to the boundaries between different lava flows which have caused steep pitches in slopes, and due to large pits and rifts caused by obstructions to lava flows and collapsed steam tunnels (Wright, 1963). Perhaps the most immediately obvious characteristic of Samoan soils is that they are mostly rocky to extremely rocky.

The parent material of most soils is olivine basalt. There are 55 different soil types. Soils are predominantly stony latosols of varying fertility (Kear and Wood, 1959). There are a lesser number and smaller areas of tuff derived soils and even fewer alluvial and colluvial soils derived from basalt (Wright, 1963). Soils are generally low in potassium and/or phosphate (see Blakemore, 1973 for a note on the potassium status of Samoan soils). Equitable rainfall, temperature and good soil properties tend to minimise the impact of relatively low fertility on plant production.

Erosion is very rare, except where human disturbance, such as roadmaking, has destroyed the ability of the natural plant cover to control water run-off. Most soils have good structure and sub-soils are not compact. Most soils are friable, and when moistened, are non-sticky and non-plastic, free draining with a low water-holding capacity (Wright, 1963).

There are marked and consistent differences between the soils of the lowlands and the uplands and between these soils and those of the highlands. There tends to be an increase in thickness of mineral soil with increasing altitude, due largely to heavier ash deposition in the uplands and the highlands (Wright, 1963).

Temperature has had a very considerable effect on the nature and fertility of soils irrespective of parent material. Weathering proceeds most rapidly at lower altitudes due to higher temperatures (Wright, 1963). However, in general all soils have weathered quickly, and soil fertility of the uplands and highlands tends to decline very quickly after removal of forest cover due to loss of the stabilizing influence of the 15 cm thick mantle of acid forest peat.

Rainfall has a considerable effect on the productive capacity of soils. In areas where annual rainfall exceeds 4200 mm, even soils from younger parent material are very strongly leached of bases, especially in the sub-soil (Wright, 1963).

Wright (1963) prepared soil maps of Samoa for the 2 main islands of Upolu and Savai’i. Copies are available for Upolu at < > and for Savai’i at <  >. More recently Leslie (2010) has prepared a Soil Resources Interpretative Reference Manual for Samoa.


Details of livestock numbers, production and meat and milk imports were given in Table 1.

The smallholder livestock subsector has traditionally concentrated on pigs and poultry. Cattle were mainly in the state-owned, WSTEC (Western Samoa Trust Estate Corporation) dominated, plantation sector. The historical role for cattle was to act as sweepers for weed control in coconut plantations rather than as a primary source of income. This has affected attitudes to cattle herd management. Most of the large WSTEC plantations have now been split up and leased to private farmers. Today the strength and growth in the cattle industry is in the emerging commercial smallholder sector, including many on former WSTEC lands. Increasingly, entrepreneurial farmers are looking to diversify their production, particularly since taro leaf blight, and to increase income in an increasingly cash-dominated economy (Lee, 1995a).

Smallholders usually have between five and fifty cattle on properties where both subsistence and commercial production are carried out. Typically, a farmer will produce livestock, root crops, coconuts and bananas for home consumption, with surplus production sold or used in traditional exchange. Cash is also commonly derived from copra sales, commercial plantations, cattle sales, business, outside employment and remittances from relatives living overseas.

In 1995, the cattle population was split among sectors in the proportions: Government (3%), WSTEC (12%), NGOs (17%), and private (68%).

Aregheore (2005) indicated that there are 2 main systems of cattle production in Samoa: village production and large-farm production, with 2 types under each system:
Village beef cattle production is divided into:

  • subsistence or village
  • smallholders sub-sector

Large farm production is also further divided into:

  • commercial or large private estates
  • government/WSTEC estates

[see Aregheore (2005) for more details]

There are 2 main beef markets:

  • Retail butcher shops where the prices are dictated by supply and demand. Samoa is a heavy net importer of meat (imports of meat were valued at US$8.6M in 1995, US$10.4M in 2005 and US$16.5M in 2009).
  • The other major beef market is fa'alavelave (traditional exchange).

Samoa has favourable animal health status for cattle, the only major diseases being brucellosis and tuberculosis which appear to have a low incidence.

At present the beef population is based predominantly on a Brahman Hereford genetic mix, and seems reasonably well adapted to the environment. In 1989, Droughtmaster cattle were introduced by the UNCDF - FAO project SAM/85/CO1 which imported 70 bulls by plane from Australia, and additional animals in two cattle shipments in 1993 and 1995. These cattle have adapted very well to Samoan conditions, and have become the breed of choice (Tevita, 1995).

Most pastoral production occurs in mature coconut plantations (Figure 3) where cattle have traditionally been used as “sweepers” to keep weeds under control. This silvo-pastoral system has evolved as farmers, researchers and extensionists have realised that the wide spacing between coconut palms and their great height leaves considerable space and ample light in which to intercrop, and thereby increase income from the same land area. This partly compensates for the volatile nature of returns from copra. The development of pastures suited to the shaded environment has been particularly successful. In Samoa in the 1990s, beef was the major income earner on land planted with coconuts. On a well managed, smallholder integrated cattle-coconut unit, a farmer could expect a gross margin of around WST 753 per hectare, compared with WST 390 per hectare from producing coconuts alone. Both examples exclude the cost of labour (Lee, 1996).

Figure 3. Cattle grazing under coconuts, where cattle are used as “sweepers”. (Photo by S.G. Reynolds).

On large farms belonging to Government, institutions and private farmers, fenced grazing systems are the norm (Figure 4). The style and intensity of management varies considerably, from single herds in which cattle are maintained on a single block of land (Figure 5) and only yarded and handled for the purpose of selecting animals for slaughter, to relatively intensive systems where controlled mating and grazing are practised. These farms often employ some level of animal health intervention such as drenching, castration and the use of mineralized salt blocks. Virtually all large farms have received improved bulls, although in some cases their effectiveness is limited by competition from the large numbers of inferior bulls remaining in the herd.

Figure 4. Paddocks partitioned for rotational grazing (Photo by E.M. Aregheore).

Figure 5. Open pasture for grazing (Photo by E.M. Aregheore).

Tethering is a common practice among small-farmers, particularly those with 1-5 cattle. However, they are increasingly opting for fenced grazing systems.

The skill level of many farmers in basic animal management and health tasks, such as in calf rearing, castration and wound treatment is limited (FAO, 1998). In the 1970s diploma students at the South Pacific Regional College of Tropical Agriculture (now University of the South Pacific) undertook practical field work in basic animal health and pregnancy testing for which a field manual was produced and later updated for conditions in Queensland, Australia (Stünzner, 1996). This was also used for training plantation managers of WSTEC to upgrade their skills in animal production and management. Recently, some Livestock extension officers have been trained in para-veterinary functions, and this has improved the delivery of animal health services at the farm level. Recent papers presented at the Commonwealth Veterinary Association Conference in Apia, Samoa highlighted the need for appropriate technology to improve beef production in Samoa (Stünzner, 2008).

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Meteorology (MAFF&M) provides direct assistance to farmers to revitalize dairy production in Samoa. The programme is focused on milk production areas and small processing units at the village level. MAFF&M has been assisted by FAO and the French Government under their technical co-operation programmes. Objectives were:

1) To facilitate the creation of demonstration units for rural milk processing and dairy production, distribution and marketing;

2) To establish a dairy farmer co-operative whereby local production of milk could be encouraged and the required hygienic standards maintained.

Besides the above, the MAFF&M dairy farm at Avele breeds and distributes dairy calves at subsidized rates to farmers who are committed to developing dairy production.

The Government beef farms at Togitogiga and Lemafa also distribute beef calves to farmers. There are herds of Droughtmaster and Brahman cattle. New herd sires are imported from time to time.

In mid-2004 under the FAO Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS) a number of Fiji Fantastic sheep (40 ewes and 4 breeding rams) were introduced from Fiji (Fong, 2009) and the project focused first on multiplication of sheep numbers and training of farmers and then on sheep distribution. By late 2008, 4 sheep breeding and research stations were set up on the government livestock farms and 24 privately operated sheep farms had been established around the country. The sheep population then stood at 336; 51% on the government stations and the remainder on the private farms (Figure 6). Also, the Samoa Sheep Farmers Association was established. The primary objective of the project was to promote food supply in the rural areas through the incorporation of sheep farming into the traditional farming system. By June 2012 (Personal communication, William Cable & Donna Sila) the number of sheep had increased to 526, with 385 on 50 private farms and 141 on the 4 Government breeding stations. The majority of breeding stock (dry/lactating/pregnant ewes and rams) are now found on private farms. The Animal Production and Health Division (APHD) has produced a sheep farm production manual which is used in training sessions with the farmers and is also distributed at Agriculture Shows and Career Days, when APHD services are showcased/displayed.

Figure 6. Fiji Fantastic sheep grazing an overgrown paddock at Avele Farm (Photo by E.M. Aregheore).

The project was designed to support one of the government’s top development priorities, namely food security, and aligns closely with one of the key outcomes of the Strategy for the Development of Samoa which aims at the enhancement of agriculture opportunities, as well as the Corporate Plan 2005-2008 of the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (MAF) which aimed: ‘To ensure that the supply of traditional foods and other primary products is adequate’.

Aregheore (2005) provided an overview of livestock production systems in Samoa (and other Pacific Island Countries), the feeding and grazing systems, the role of forage and feed in the systems, the use of crop residues and agro-industrial by-products with descriptions of the main forages (grasses and legumes) and feeds, common browse plants and descriptions and analytical data for common feeds. 



There are a number of physical and socio-economic constraints which limit pasture-based livestock production:

  • Rather than sale for cash in a formalised meat marketing system, much locally produced meat is used as gifts to meet social obligations at events such as weddings and funerals. This appears to be a relatively successful and equitable (cash free) means of distributing dietary protein. A number of farmers have found that community social obligations present good market opportunities.
  • Market opportunities for locally produced meat and milk are limited away from Apia, and particularly in Savaii. Consequently, farmers have to divide their time and resources between production, processing, distribution and sales.
  • Poor water availability, as a result of the small number of permanent rivers, limits animal performance.
  • Low soil fertility in highland and some upland areas causes slow growth rates and poor breeding performance due to nutrient deficiencies.
  • Lack of access to development finance, particularly for those farmers (the majority) whose farms are on customary title. Therefore land cannot be used as security for loans.
  • Many farmers suffer from under-developed commercial farm management and planning skills.
  • The often extremely rocky nature of the soils prohibits the use of mechanised land preparation techniques in many situations.
  • Disputes over land are relatively common, and the threat of a dispute can render the prospect of developing land too risky.
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Meteorology (MAFF & M) lacks the staff and institutional ability to fully support pastoral farmers.


Nationally, the intensity of land use is quite low, and sales of agricultural products have declined over the last thirty years. Even though the trend is now reversing, there are large areas of unused land which have previously been cleared for plantation agriculture. The largest single area of under-utilised agricultural land is old coconut plantations. Coconut plantations are found generally in a coastal band up to 300 m altitude, on all but very steep slopes, and on soil of moderate to high productive capacity.

There is an estimated 38,000 ha (FAO, 1995) of under-utilized, mainly weed infested (mainly Psidium guajava, Sida spp., Ficus spp., Hibiscus tiliaceous, Macaranga spp.), coconut plantations in Samoa. This is the most abundant, and most economically and environmentally favourable land type for pastoral expansion. Rehabilitation of these areas for cattle production also increases the production levels from coconut enterprises by up to 50%, depending on the type of development and level of management (Reynolds, 1995).

Historically coconut plantations have been given high priority in land allocation. Promotion of pastoral development within the 'coconut belt' is seen as a desirable strategy because:

  • There are large areas of previously cleared, under-utilised land available.
  • The high levels of natural soil fertility mean that, with limited inputs, high levels of pasture and animal production and profit, with fewer problems such as mineral deficiencies, can be achieved.
  • There is easy village access with consequent savings in transportation and labour costs.
  • Smallholder incomes from copra production improve because nuts are easier to find in a grazed pasture, and higher yields and lower collection costs may be expected. There is also improved nutrient cycling in the grazed environment and nut production can be expected to rise by approximately 25% (Reynolds 1995).
  • There is potential for achieving a greater intensity of land use through rotational cropping of vegetables, bananas and root crops with short term grazed pastures between cropping periods.

Land with appropriate access, slope, fertility and tenure characteristics is in sufficient supply for the on-going expansion of production (Lee, 1995b). This is where the majority of pasture development is occurring.

As a result of taro blight (Phytophthora colocasia) in 1993, and the subsequent collapse of the taro production and export subsector, many farmers previously growing taro (Colocasia esculenta) have elected to develop these former taro plantations into pastoral farms. Such plantations tend to be located on high land (over 300 m), in wet environments (more than 4000 mm annual rainfall), and on clay soils of moderate to low natural fertility with flat to moderately steep slopes. They are often in remote areas.

6.1 Improved pasture grass varieties

Batiki grass (see Figure 7). The principal improved pasture grass variety is batiki grass (Ischaemum aristatum [or indicum]). It is not known when this grass was introduced, but it is assumed that it came from Fiji. This moisture loving plant will grow in virtually all areas except western districts of each island where it tends to form a weak sward incapable of competing with weeds. In all other areas it grows vigorously, establishing quickly from seed or, most commonly, from cuttings. Having a very strong creeping habit, it is highly tolerant of heavy grazing and its dense ground cover smothers invasive weeds. It grows well under coconuts and combines well with the native legume hetero (see Figure 8).

Figure 7. Batiki grass (photo by E.M. Aregheore)

Figure 8. Cattle grazing batiki-hetero pastures in Samoa (photo by E.M. Aregheore).

Batiki is very tolerant of low fertility situations, being able to grow even in very poor highland soils. However, the resultant forage is often severely nutrient deficient. So despite an apparent abundance of feed, cattle will have poor breeding and growth performance, if not given adequate dietary supplements.

Animal performance from batiki grass pasture varies with the level of management. Rotational grazing with a short interval of 21 - 28 days is required to maintain young leafy growth. Digestible crude protein percentage in the foliage tends to decrease with time, reaching the minimum threshold for maintenance requirement after about 28 days. Reynolds (1995) stated that annual liveweight gains of around 273 kg/ha could be expected from batiki as compared to 127 kg/ha from unimproved grazing.

Aregheore (2001) indicated that there is scant information on the nutritive value of most grass species, inclusive of batiki grass, in Samoa. He suggested that the challenge before ruminant nutritionists and pasture agronomists in using a single grass species as a sole source of forage for animals is to determine whether or not the pasture can supply adequate nutrients for maintenance, growth and production. He also provided mineral composition data on a number of grasses (batiki, guinea and signal).

Results from a trial on the nutritive evaluation of batiki grass with other species such as guinea grass (Panicum maximum), and signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens) in Samoa indicated that batiki grass has a comparatively low nutritive value. However,the results of another trial demonstrated that a mixture of 60% batiki grass and 40 % dadap (Erythrina variegata) could satisfy the nutritional requirements of growing goats in terms of voluntary feed intake, growth rate, feed efficiency and apparent nutrient digestibility coefficients (Aregheore 2001). A further trial (Aregheore, 2002a) showed that Moringa oleifera at 20 and 50% levels of total daily forage allowance could be used as a cheap protein supplement in batiki grass based diets for goats. Aregheore and Ng’ambi (2007) reported on the water intake of Fiji Fantastic sheep fed a basal diet of batiki grass supplemented with dried brewers’ grains.

Signal grass. The second most popular improved pasture variety is brizantha/signal grass (Brachiaria brizantha). This requires better management and fertility than batiki. It was commonly planted on large plantations such as WSTEC as an open pasture in more fertile areas with a drier north westerly aspect. Signal grass is planted generally by farmers with larger farms and where seasonal drought may be expected. Some seed of Brachiaria decumbens has been imported, but B. brizantha (also known as Palisade grass) , probably introduced by WSTEC, is more widespread and is vegetatively propagated.

Para grass(Brachiaria mutica)is a common grass in upland plateau areas (see Figure 9). Where cattle are not present, or grazing pressure is light to moderate, the species persists well. However, when fenced and overgrazed (almost invariably), the grass will quickly die out leaving low producing broadleafed weeds.

Figure 9.  Para grass (Brachiaria mutica). (Photo by S.G. Reynolds).

Grasses for drought prone areas. Koronivia grass (Brachiaria humidicola) is the most common drought tolerant improved grass grown (Figure 10). Small areas of Bisset creeping blue grass (Bothriochloa insculpta cv Bisset) have been planted and show promise as drought tolerant pastures for western areas (Lee, 1996).

Figure  10.  Koronivia grass (Brachiaria humidicola). (photo by S.G. Reynolds).

Cut-and-carry feeding is practised by a number of farmers particularly those with pickup trucks. Recently an under-utilized hybrid elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) has been promoted and Leucaena KX2 hybrid was imported for cut-and-carry feeding principally by small dairy farmers (FAO, 1998). Cut-and-carry is used particularly by farmers who tether their animals around Apia. At Lalomauga, Sunny Island Dairy farm cut-and carry Napier and Guatemala grass (Tripsacum laxum or Tripsacum andersonii), the latter on the wetter soils, to satisfy part of the feed requirements of the herd of 15 milking cows.

Other grasses are in the process of being trialled for use by cattle farmers. One of these is splenda setaria (Setaria sphacelata cv splenda). To be useful, new introductions need to perform well in the relatively low fertility soils and withstand competition from very aggressive weeds such as navua sedge (Kyllinga polyphylla).

6.2 Improved legume varieties

Hetero (Desmodium heterophyllum) is the most widely occurring pasture legume. It is probably native to Samoa (see Figure 11). It is very adaptable and easy to grow from cuttings. This is the first priority for legume introduction in pastures. It is a low growing perennial creeper which can provide an increase in annual liveweight gain from 220 kg/ha for batiki grass alone to 370 kg/ha for batiki-hetero pasture under good management (Trevor, 1998). Rates of nitrogen fixation by hetero of 64 kg N and 110 kg N ha-1 year-1 with tall guinea grass and B. miliiformis respectively were recorded in Samoa by Reynolds (1982).

Figure 11. Hetero (photo by S. G. Reynolds)

Jointvetch. During the 90s, jointvetch varieties (Aeschynomene americana cv. Lee (perennial) and cv. Glenn (annual - weak perennial)) were introduced to Samoa. These legumes have shown good potential in managed grazing systems. They are easy to establish, highly productive (Lee, 1996), and grow well in the low fertility soils. Glenn is able to persist due to its heavy seed production.

Centro (Centrosema pubescens)is naturalised in a number of drier areas of Samoa particularly in north western Uplou and eastern Savaii where it can be found both in unimproved pastures, in improved batiki pastures, and growing on walls where it offers a good source of seed.

Shrub legumes. There is very good potential for increased use of shrub legumes. Successful stands have been grown and managed for specific purposes such as feeding weaner cattle. Failures in the past have often been due to the practice of planting shrub legumes as part of the general pasture improvement strategy and use of incorrect grazing practices. This has caused stand failure through overgrazing and overly short grazing intervals.

Successfully grown shrub legumes are Calliandra calothyrsus, Leucaena leucocephala cv Cunningham, Leucaena hybrid KX2, and Gliricidia sepium.

Aregheore (2002b) and Aregheore and Yahaya (2002) reported on the use of leucaena supplementation with batiki and panicum maximum in goat diets.

A practice developed by local farmers is to cut Albizia chinensis bush fallow to 1 m, plant signal or batiki grass, and manage the re-growth as a shrub legume/grass pasture.

6.3 Weed control

Some exotic weeds such as guava (Psidium guajava) require chemical treatment to control them. A technique has been developed using a very low volume of non-residual herbicide (triclopyr as the butoxyethyl ester) applied directly to plant stems. However, the overall need for herbicides in plantations has been reduced as easily applied, appropriate management techniques have been developed which control weed incursion by promoting a dominant pasture (Lee, 1995b).

6.4 Recent initiatives in forage improvement

Much of the early development of pasture-cattle-coconut systems in the South Pacific was concentrated on Western Samoa, where a considerable amount of research was carried out from the late sixties to the late seventies largely by a number of FAO projects (see Reynolds, 1995 and Reynolds, 1999).

More recently the Government of Western Samoa identified cattle development as an important strategy for import substitution (GWS Development Plan 7). Samoa’s meat imports have steadily increased over the years and were valued at US$16.5M in 2009. At the farm level, the choice to develop a cattle enterprise as part of their farm system has been made by many families for various reasons. Some of these are listed below, as ascertained by the author from discussions with farmers and extensionists over a 3 year period.

  • Integration. Most smallholder farming systems have a rich variety of enterprises carried out on a given area of land. Samoan farmers appreciate the complementary nature of integrating the production of different crops and are quick to realise the benefits of adding cattle to a system particularly for weed control, ease of coconut collection and increased total coconut yield, in addition to beef production.
  • Risk. Minimising risk is one of the prime reasons for adopting a multi-enterprise farm system. Cyclones are relatively common in Samoa, therefore they have an important influence on the farmers' choice of enterprises for risk management. Cattle farming is seen as a low risk enterprise.
  • Land supply. Given the current low population and low intensity of land use, land is plentiful and many farmers find that the best management and use of their existing lands is for cattle production.
  • Profitability. Beef production is certainly profitable. Given the price of WST 6.6 per kg of carcass (in 2000), farmers were receiving more than WST 1000 (US$ 400) for a 3-year old steer. Farmers see this as a good return on labour and capital.
  • Social obligations. The traditional system of ceremonial exchange (fa'alavelave), values carcass and salted beef highly. By farming cattle, a family is well placed to meet it's social obligations and to profit by supplying cattle to others for fa'alavelave. Given responsible herd management, a farmer can achieve a sustainable off-take level. Fa'alavelave also appears to be an equitable non-cash method of distributing beef and adds high quality protein to family diets.
  • Labour. This tends to be a limiting factor in increasing agricultural production. Beef production is not labour intensive and therefore gives a high return to labour (Lee, 1996).
  • Accumulation of wealth. In many societies, cattle are seen as a profitable way of building and storing wealth, and in Samoa, this is the case. Cattle grow and increase in value quickly e.g. a 6 month old weaner steer worth WST 500 can be sold 2 years later for more than WST 1000. Even after deducting the costs of production, returns are substantially better than bank rates. Cattle ownership also gives a spin-off in terms of personal status.

Ongoing initiatives

Field trials are currently being carried out to evaluate diets of batiki grass with different ratios of the leaves and browse of multipurpose trees as a means to improve its nutritional content for grazing and confined animals in Samoa. The browses being evaluated are Leucaena leucocephala, Glyricidia sepium, Calliandra calothyrsus, Erythrina variegata (dadap), and Spondias mombin (vie). These ongoing trials are with goats and steers. Some results have been reported by Aregheore (2002a).

The Togitogiga Government beef cattle farm is dominated by batiki grass. At present, the Livestock Division (MAFF&M) has established a shrub legume plot [a feed garden] planted with Leucaena leucocephala and Calliandra calothyrsus at the farm. Animals are allowed to graze in the feed garden at varying intervals in order to supplement the nutrient deficient diet of batiki grass.

Other current initiatives by the Livestock Division include the promotion and demonstration of pasture development on fern (Nephrolepsis hirsutula) infested lands employing low cost techniques and inputs accessible to all smallholders (Tevita, 2001).

Aregheore (2000) has stressed the need to better utilize the large quantities of crop residues and agro-industrial by-products generated each year and incorporate them into feed rations. Further details were given in Aregheore (2005).

Tevita (1995) reported that a number of useful co-operation projects had contributed significantly to the development of the cattle industry in Samoa.

  • FAO Veterinary and Pasture Agronomy project - 1970s. Lack of continuity and resources meant government was unable to sustain this programme.
  • UNDP/FAO Cattle Development Project SAM/86/003. 1992 - 1994. This project identified and promoted recommended pasture varieties and improvement technologies through MAFF staff training and extension.
  • UNDP/FAO Project SAM/95/001. 1995. This project carried on the work of the previous project and contributed significantly to increased awareness in farmers through training (to over 450 farmers) and demonstration of pasture technologies.
  • AusAID Livestock Training Project. This programme offered training for Livestock Division staff and innovative farmers from 1991 to 1998.
  • FAO Project TCP/RAS/4451. This was a regional training project which held workshops in Vanuatu on pastoral development in 1993.
  • FAO Project TCP/SAM/6611. This was a smallholder dairy production and processing project which focused on forage-based dairy production, the use of local feed resources such as agro-industrial by-products, animal health and micro-scale milk processing.
  • FAO Project GCP/SAM/007/FRA. This project assisted with training on milk production and processing, organized a successful regional workshop and has produced a CD-ROM entitled "Dairying in the Southwest Pacific".

Future development priorities for the Samoan pastoral sector were also identified by Tevita (1995). These were:

  • To continue providing services to enable establishment and management of sufficient quantity and quality pastures to support 40 000 cattle by the year 2010.
  • To continue major species development concentrating on proven combinations of grasses and legumes, as well as work on new species adapted to specific areas.
  • To work on soil fertility improvement in various parts of the country.
  • To continue work on shrub legumes such as leucaena and calliandra.
  • To study weed control practices.
  • To encourage and promote field days for farmers.
  • To establish improved marketing strategies.
  • To consider development of abattoir facilities.
  • To improve animal health status, and make advance preparation for possible future beef exports.
  • To continue capacity building of staff and farmers.
  • To strengthen and improve the existing pasture and livestock monitoring programme.

As of July 2012 (personal communication William Cable & Donna Sila) work continues with the pasture grass and legume species introduced some 20 years ago. There are 2 pasture demonstration units, at Avele and Salelologa from where farmers collect seedlings and planting materials. The main focus is to improve the pastures available to cattle, sheep and pigs. Key issues remain the management of the improved pastures and their longevity.

The establishment of the Samoan Cattlemens’ Association should assist in the development of the cattle industry (and therefore pasture development) in Samoa as will the more recent establishment of the Samoan Sheep Farmers’ Association.

Anon. (2008) noted that although the overall goal for the agriculture sector in “Strategy for the Development of Samoa (SDS) 2005-2007” was accelerated agricultural growth, progress was mixed and fluctuations in the sector were largely attributed to unpredictable commodity prices and variations of supply caused by changing weather conditions, leaving agriculture’s share of GDP at 6.7%. Strategies to enhance agricultural growth during SDS 2005-2007 fell into three main categories: (1) enhancing food security; (2) promoting commercial investment in crop production, fisheries, forestry and livestock development; and (3) strengthening the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAFF). Livestock production was supported through the sale of weaners to cattle farmers, but it was noted that the breeding herd is ageing and needs revitalising. The integration of sheep into traditional farming systems was supported through the development of demonstration sites.  The long-awaited establishment of the abattoir was delayed due to funding constraints, but a meat processing training centre was set up in 2006 and could provide regional training on a user cost basis.

In line with Samoa’s development objective and vision of “Improved Quality of Life for All” the theme of the “Strategy for the Development of Samoa (SDS) 2008-2012” (Anon., 2008) is “ensuring sustainable economic and social progress”. Under the Strategy an agriculture sector plan that provides a coherent policy framework for promoting agricultural development was to be formulated and implemented. It was noted that an abattoir is needed to improve the hygiene and quality standards of animal slaughter for the domestic market and to encourage increased beef production as well as making use of the meat processing training centre.

In early 2012 the Project Appraisal Document was drafted for a new World Bank funded US$13M (later US$16.16M) project (World Bank, 2012). Samoa - Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project (SACEP). The development objective of the project is to support fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers to improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities. The project has 3 components:

  • Livestock production and marketing. The objective of this component will be to encourage interested livestock producers to upgrade livestock, improve husbandry practices and stock management, make productivity enhancing on-farm investments, and improve the quality of meat sold in the local market.
  • Fruit and vegetable production and marketing. The objective of this component will be to enable interested fruit and vegetable growers to have access to new, higher yielding varieties, adopt improved technology and production techniques, make productivity enhancing on-farm investments, and organize themselves to strengthen their presence in the market and meet the demands of local retailers and foodservice operators for year-round supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Institutional strengthening. The objective of this component will be to improve the effectiveness of agricultural institutions (government and non-government) providing extension and adaptive research services to Samoan farmers> The project agreement was signed in Manila on May 4th, 2012 with an expected start date of July 2012 and a  five-year duration. (see
The project will help more than 2,000 Samoan fruit and vegetable and livestock farmers to improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities. Livestock farmers participating in the project will benefit from activities which will improve access to superior breeding stock; improve livestock nutrition; provide finance for eligible farm enterprise investments through matching grants; and improve meat handling via a new field service on Upolu and Savai’i, and later through the construction of an abattoir on Upolu. Also, the project will support the implementation of Samoa’s Agriculture Sector Plan (2011 – 2015) and will contribute to the Plan’s objectives of increased food and income security by 2015 and enhanced private sector capacity in improving productivity, value addition and marketing.


Fonoiava Sealiitu Sesega,
Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries,
ACC Building,
PO Box 1874,
Office & Enquiries (Tel.): (685) 22561 / 22564
Fax: (685) 21865
Website: < >

Leota Laumata Pelesa,
ACEO Livestock,
Animal Production and Health Division,
Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries,
Tel: (685) 21052 / 26529
E-mail: < >

Ms. Seykeen Meleisea AhKuio,
Senior Animal Production Advisory Officer
Animal Production and Health Division,
Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries,
[In charge of pasture issues]

8. REFERENCES Anon. (2008). Strategy for the Development of Samoa (SDS), 2008–2012: Ensuring Sustainable Economic and Social Progress. Ministry of Finance, Economic Policy and Planning Division, Apia, Samoa. 45 p. & Annexes. <  >

Aregheore, E.M. (2000). Crop residues and agro-industrial by-products in four Pacific Island countries: availability, utilization and potential value in ruminant nutrition. Asian-Aus. J. Anim. Sci. Vol. 13, Supplement (B), pp. 266-269.

Aregheore, E.M. (2001). The contribution of pasture to sustainable beef cattle production systems in The South Pacific Region. In: Aregheore, E.M., Umar, M. & Adams, E. (eds) 2001. Sustainable Ruminant Livestock Production in the South Pacific Region. Proceedings of the Regional Workshop held on June 25 - July 2, 2001 at Hotel Peninsula, Suva, Fiji Islands, pp. 29-43.

Aregheore, E.M. (2002a). Intake and digestibility of Moringa oleifera - batiki grass mixtures by grazing goats. Small Ruminant Research 46 (1), pp.23-28.

Aregheore, E.M. (2002b). Voluntary intake and digestibility of fresh, wilted and dry leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) at four levels to the basal diet of guinea grass (Panicum maximum). Asian-Australasia J. of Animal Science and Technology 15 (8), pp. 1139-1146.

Aregheore, E.M. and Yahaya, M.S. (2002). Effect of fresh leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) leaf supplementation on the growth of young Anglo-Nubian crossbred goats feeding either batiki (Ischaemum aristatum var. indicum and guinea (Panicum maximum grass. PNG Journal of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Vol. 45 No. 1-2.

Aregheore, E.M. (2005). Feeds and Forages in Pacific Islands Farming Systems. < >.

Aregheore, E.M. & J.W. Ng’ambi. (2007). Water intake of Fiji Fantastic sheep fed a basal diet of batiki grass (Ischaemum aristatum var.indicum) supplemented with dried brewers’ grains. American-Eurasian J. Agric. & Environ. Sci., 2 (5) 479-485. 

Aregheore, E.M. & M.S. Yahaya. (2002). Effect of fresh leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) leaf supplementation on the growth of young Anglo-Nubian crossbred goats feeding either batiki (Ischaemum aristatum var. indicum and guinea (Panicum maximum grass. PNG Journal of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Vol. 45 No. 1-2.

Blakemore, L.C. (1973). Potassium status of Western Samoan soils: A note. New Zealand Journal of Experimental Agriculture, Volume 1Issue 3 (Special Issue), pp. 213-216.

FAO (1995). Project document, UNDP FAO Livestock and Pasture Development, Project SAM/95/001, Apia, Western Samoa, January 1995.

FAO (1998). Terminal statement (FAO project TCP/SAM/6611) on milk production areas and small milk processing units, FAO Rome 1998.

Fong, F. (2009). Terminal Report FAO/ITA/SAM 02 Integration of Sheep into the Traditional Farming System under GTFS/RAS/198/ITA Support to the Regional Programme for Food Security in the Pacific Island Countries. FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Samoa. 7 p.
<  >.

Kear, D. and Wood, B.L. (1959). The Geology and Hydrology of Western Samoa. New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Zealand Geological Survey, Bulletin 63. 1959.

Lee, S.D. (1995a). Achievements of UNDP/FAO Western Samoa Livestock and Pasture Development Project, SAM/95/001. In: Lee S.D. and Macfarlane D.C. (eds), The Status of Forage Based Ruminant Production in the South Pacific. Proceedings of a workshop held in the islands of Upolu and Savaii, Western Samoa, 8-11 December 1995.

Lee, S.D. (1995b). Cattle under coconuts, a sustainable improved pasture system for South Pacific island countries. In: Lee S.D. and Macfarlane D.C. (eds), The Status of Forage Based Ruminant Production in the South Pacific. Proceedings of a workshop held in the islands of Upolu and Savaii, Western Samoa, 8-11 December 1995.

Lee, S.D. (1996). Guidelines for smallholder dairy farmers in Western Samoa. Consultants report to UNDP - FAO project SAM/86/003, Apia, Samoa.

Leslie, D. (2010). Soil Resources Interpretative Reference Manual for Samoa. Produced by the project on Integrating Climate Change Risks in the Agriculture and Health Sectors in Samoa (ICCRA&HSS), executed by MNRE and implemented through UNDP/GEF; April 2010.

Reynolds, S.G. (1982). Contributions to yield, nitrogen fixation and transfer by local and exotic legumes in tropical grass-legume mixtures in Western Samoa. Trop. Grasslands 16 (2), 76-80.

Reynolds, S.G. (1995). Pasture -Cattle - Coconut Systems. FAO RAPA publication 1995/7, Bangkok, Thailand, 668 pp.

Reynolds, S.G. (1999). Pastures and Livestock Under Coconuts. Chapter 14 In:  Ohler, J.G. Modern Coconut Management: palm cultivation and products. (see < >).

SPC (2012). SPC – Statistics for Development.  []

SPC Website

Stünzner, O. G. (1996). Pregnancy Testing: a Cattle Producers’ Guide to its Practice and Use in Herd Management. Central Queensland University Publishing Unit ISBN 1 875902 04X, 134 p.

Stünzner, O.G. (2008). Beef Production and Appropriate Technology in Samoa. Paper presented at the 13th Australasia/Oceania Commonwealth Veterinary Association Regional Meeting and Workshop 17-21 November 2008, Apia, Samoa.

Tevita, F. (1995). Country Paper: Western Samoa. In: Lee S.D. and Macfarlane D.C. (eds), The Status of Forage Based Ruminant Production in the South Pacific. Proceedings of a workshop held in the islands of Upolu and Savaii, Western Samoa, 8-11 December 1995.

Tevita, F. (2001). Personal communication from Faleupolu Tevita, Assistant Director (Livestock) MAFF&M.

Trevor, P. (1998). Personal communication from the farmer, Peter Trevor of Faaala, Savaii.

World Bank. (2012). Samoa - Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project. Washington D.C. - The Worldbank. < >.

Wright, A. (1963). Soils and Land Use of Western Samoa, New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Soil Bureau - Bulletin 22. 1963.

Samoa - Website


This profile was written and will be updated from time to time by:

Stephen Lee
58 Greenpark Rd
RD2 Christchurch 7674
New Zealand

Ph: 643 338 3529

[The original version was edited by H.M Shelton; the revised version drafted in May 2001 was edited by S.G. Reynolds and further revised by S.G. Reynolds in May 2006 and January 2009.  A major revision was undertaken by S.G. Reynolds in July 2012 when photos were added].