FORAGE INTAKE BY GRAZING CATTLE UNDER OIL PALM PLANTATION IN MALAYSIA

M. Yahya, F. Y. Chin, A. B. Idris, S. Azizol

Department of Veterinary Services, 50620 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

E. L. Lim

TAC Office, Department of Veterinary Services District Office

Batang Padang, Perak, Malaysia

(22 November, 2000)

1. INTRODUCTION

Integration of beef cattle with primary crops is being actively promoted under the new agriculture policy (NAP3) in Malaysia since more than one million hectares of oil palm plantation in the country are considered suitable for livestock integration. This programme is aimed at increasing the national beef output through optimization of land use. Cattle grazing on the edible weeds and grasses under the trees can help alleviate environmental pollution through reduction of herbicide application. However, more research is needed in order to collect data on cattle production parameters and long-term impacts to the crops, soils and the economics of livestock-primary crop integration.

One of the important research areas is proper assessment of forage intake by grazing cattle under the integration system. This information is useful in determining nutrient balance, improving feeding and breeding management of the cattle under this new production system. Thus, a cooperative project between the FAO Working Group on Grazing and Feed Resources for Southeast Asia and the Department of Veterinary Services Malaysia was undertaken in May 2000. The objective of this project was to estimate forage intake by grazing cattle through the use of acid detergent lignin dilution technique (Van Soest, 1963) in combination with "quadrat method" and manual observation on grazing frequency.

2. MATERIALS AND METHOD

An oil palm plantation in Besout 4, Batang Padang, in the State of Perak, under the FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority) was selected to be the site for the project. This is about two-hour drive north of Kuala Lumpur and having a Department’s district office with TAC (Target Area Concentration) Cattle Integration Project Office and field staff to assist in organising the trial procedures and sample collection.

Two cattle herds belonging to two groups of farmers were selected for the study. The herd size ranged between 14 to 57 heads and average liveweight was estimated at 198 kg; this weight was used as the basis for dry matter intake calculation. Five adult cows from each herd were identified for forage and faecal sample collection. Each herd was confined to one hectare area by single strand electric fencing and moved to a new area on a daily basis. Forage species consisted mainly of Paspalum and Assystasia, and some ferns. Farmers rarely provide supplementary feeding to the herds. Water were provided in plastic containers. Vaccinations against major diseases were generally not required but minor wounds were treated whenever necessary.

Forage samples were collected by manual cutting (a few cm above ground) near to the grazing points of each identified cow and faecal samples were collected whenever the cow voided. Collection was for five diurnal (0700 to 1800 hours) and five nocturnal periods (1800 to 0600 hours) with a rest period between consecutive day and night time samplings. Samples were pooled by animal and period. The number of times the animal grazed and defaecated were recorded. Another estimate of pasture yield and grazing intake were performed by pre-grazing and post-grazing "quadrat" throwing method and manual cutting; 20 random throws of 0.25 x 0.25 m quadrat were done for each pre- and post-grazing plot. Forage samples within the quadrats were cut and weighed. The pooled samples were analysed for moisture, crude protein, acid detergent lignin, neutral detergent and acid detergent fibre, calcium and phosphorus. Data analysis by general linear models and t-tests between pairs of least square means were performed using Stastistical Analysis System (SAS, 1989).

3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), neutral detergent (NDF) and acid detergent fibres (ADF), calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P) and acid detergent lignin (ADL) contents of the forage samples are shown in Table 1. There were significant differences in the DM and CP contents of forage samples collected during the day and at night. Crude protein content of the forage was relatively high which could be contributed by the Assystasia broadleaves (generally contained 20% CP). No significant differences were found between time of collection for NDF, ADF, ADL, Ca and P contents of the samples.

Table 1. Composition of forage samples consumed by cattle (as % dry matter)

Nutrient

parameter

Diurnal

Nocturnal

Overall

means

Sig.

Level1

Std. Error

of Mean

Dry matter

13.52a

12.40b

12.97

**

0.31

Crude protein

16.38a

17.47b

16.91

*

0.40

Neutral detergent fibre

60.15

58.85

59.51

NS

0.85

Acid detergent fibre

47.87

47.78

47.82

NS

0.69

Acid detergent lignin

14.52

14.94

14.75

NS

0.58

Calcium

0.56

0.69

0.63

NS

0.05

Phosphorus

0.32

0.31

0.31

NS

0.01

1Significant level: * = P<0.05; ** = P<0.01: NS = not significant.

Average fodder yield per hectare per cutting by quadrat method was estimated at 468 kg. This would be adequate to provide an optimal stocking of 20 to 25 adult cattle for a 24-hour grazing period. For comparison, estimates of fresh forage and its dry matter intake (DMI) based on quadrat measurement are shown in Table 2. DMI estimated by lignin dilution technique is also shown in the table below. Lignin (ADL) was found to be digested at about 14.16%. The mean fresh forage daily intake based on the quadrat method was 18.20 kg or 9.19% of 198 kg average body weight. This appears to be a reasonable estimate as the normal assumption of fodder intake by cattle is about 10% of the body weight. However, estimate of intake based on lignin dilution technique averaged 11.18 kg (13.02 kg if corrected for lignin absorption) or 5.6% of body weight. This is lower by 38.6% (28.5% if corrected for lignin absorption) compared with direct method by quadrat. In terms of DM, the cattle consumed 2.36 kg of fodder DM or 1.19% of the body weight. This was higher than 1.45 kg or 0.73% of the body weight when estimated by lignin dilution method. The cattle apparently consumed slightly higher forage during evening than at night (nocturnal period) although no significant difference was detected.

Apparent DM digestibility calculated by difference (DMI – Faecal DM voided) was 40.2% compared to 39.81% for NDF, 32.1% for ADF and 14.16% for ADL. These digestibility parameters appered to be somewhat low for the DM but reasonable for the NDF, ADF and ADF components of the forage.

Table 2. Intake and Digestibility Parameters of Forage by Cattle Grazing Under Oil Palm Plantation

Parameters

Site A

Site B

LS

Means1

Std.

Dev.2

Diurnal

Nocturnal

Diurnal

Nocturnal

Forage intake (quadrat) (kg/hd/day)3

As % body weight

17.68

8.93

17.82

9.90

18.06

9.12

18.20

9.19

18.19

9.19

0.23

0.42

Forage intake (lignin) (kg/hd/day)4

As % body weight

11.24

5.68

11.85

5.98

10.65

5.38

10.97

5.54

11.18

5.64

0.51

0.25

Dry matter intake (quadrat) (kg/hd/day)3

As % body weight4

2.39

1.12

2.21

1.12

2.51

1.28

2.30

1.16

2.36

1.19

0.40

0.20

Dry matter intake (lignin) (kg/hd/day)4

As % body weight

1.52

0.77

1.47

0.74

1.44

0.73

1.36

0.69

1.45

0.73

0.20

0.19

Faecal dry matter voided

(kg/hd/day)

As wet weight (kg/hd/day)

1.48

7.96

1.38

8.10

1.39

7.30

1.39

8.17

1.41

7.82

0.39

3.0

Digestibility (%):

Apparent dry matter5

 

Neutral detergent fibre4

Acid detergent fibre4

 

Acid detergent lignin4

 

 

38.1

40.86

33.40

14.29

 

37.6

42.83

34.87

14.66

 

 

44.6

36.23

30.06

13.24

 

39.6

38.37

30.79

14.26

 

40.2

39.81

32.41

14.16

 

3.2

11.98

9.36

3.80

1 Least square means.

2 Standard deviation.

3 Estimated by quadrat method.

4 Estimated by lignin marker dilution technique.

5 (Feed DM – Feacal DM)*100/Feed DM.

Yusoff et. al. (2000) estimated forage intake by sheep in open grazing on Guinea pasture. It was shown that DMI as % of body weight was 3.87% for the male and 3.82% of the body weight for the female sheep. These estimates were considerably higher than the estimates shown in the present study (2.36%). The difference may be attributed to close grazing behaviour of sheep, higher DM content of the improved pasture (19.5% versus 12.97%) and less chance for selective grazing due to single pasture type. However, the CP content was lower (9.8%) in the improved pasture analysed by Yusoff et. al. (2000) compared with the natural mixed pasture (16.9%) conditions under the oilpalm plantation found in the present study.

Grazing frequency of the 10 cows (5 cows in each site) observed in the present study showed that the shading effect and the abundance of forage found under the palm trees would probably allow the cattle to graze continually for 20 hours daily from about 6.00 am until 2.00 am the next morning. The animals appeared to rest between 2.00 to 5.30 am. when grazing activities ceased altogether. Defaecation frequencies roughly followed the grazing pattern of the cattle. The frequency charts on the grazing and defaecation activities are shown as attached.

The question arises as to whether the DMI measured in the present study would allow adequate nutrient intakes for optimal productive functions? Estimate of nutrient balance based on the difference between the intakes and recommended daily allowances are shown in Table 3 below.

Table 3. Nutrient Balance of Cattle Grazing Under the Oil Palm Plantation

Parameters

Dry matter

(kg)

Crude protein

(kg)

Metabolizable energy

(MJ)

Ca

(g)

P

(g)

Daily nutrient intakes1

Recommended daily requirement2

2.4

 

3.9

0.41

 

0.23

16.8

 

55.22

15.1

 

6.2

7.4

 

6.2

Balance3

 

(1.5)

0.18

(38.8)

8.9

1.2

1Nutrient composition from Table 1.

2Estimated from NRC (1976) for dry pregnant (last third stage) matured cows of 198

kg body weight.

3Figure in parenthesis denotes negative value.

The tabulation shows that there were severe deficit of energy (-70%) and dry matter intakes (-38%) while total (CP) and phosphorus intakes were adequate; calcium intake was more than adequately supplied by the forage dry matter. Deficits of major nutrients can be more severe if lactating and pregnant cows and growing animals (young pregnant heifers) are considered. It would appear that for the dry adult cows and matured bulls, major nutrient requirements may be met through grazing of mixed forage under the oil palm plantation.

4. CONCLUSIONS

The present study reveals that the use of acid detergent lignin as a natural marker to estimate the dry matter intake and digestibility parameters of cattle grazed under oil palm seemed to under estimate these values. However, the marker technique may be combined with the direct measurement such as through the use of quadrat method in order to allow for "correction" of the values to be done. The shading effect provided by the oil palm trees allowed cattle to graze continually for 20 hours daily and provided adequate dry matter, protein, calcium and phosphorus intakes for the maintenance of mature animals but is expected to be inadequate to supply the need for the pregnant, milking and growing young cattle. Therefore, it is recommended that some energy and trace mineral supplements are provided in order to improve the performance level of productive animals under the integration system.

REFERENCES

NRC (1976). Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle. National Academy of Sciences,

Washington, D.C.

Yusof, S.M, S. Tapsir and H. Zubir (2000). Forage intake by grazing sheep. Proc. 22nd

MSAP Ann. Conf. 29 May – 1 June, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

SAS (1989). SAS System for Windows 3.10. Release 6.08. Cary, N.C. 27513-8000,

USA: SAS Institute Inc.

Van Soest, P.J. (1963). Use of detergents in the analysis of fibrous feeds. II. A rapid

method for the determination of fiber and lignin. J. Assoc. Official Agr. Chem.

46:829.