Tree foliage in ruminant nutrition


Department of Animal Science
University of New England
Armidale, New South Wales

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ISBN 92-5-104086-9

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, 1997


The required intensification of production to satisfy the increasing demand for milk and meat needs to be achieved by environmentally friendly technology that does not prevent future generations in meeting their requirements. In this context, maximising agricultural outputs by increasing the efficiencies of capturing solar energy per unit of the transformation into the food chain appear as logical strategies.

Multipurpose trees can make a significant contribution to agricultural systems by providing a variety of useful products, including valuable forage and wood. The feeding value of low quality agricultural residues and tropical grasses can be greatly improved by foliage from leguminous trees, which can be grown integrated directly to pastures, in fences and in the so called “protein banks”. In mixed farming areas, the tree-strata concept significantly raises the overall photosynthetic capacity of the agricultural system by enlarging the leaf-area index and favouring nutrient enrichment and recycling. In some cases, pure stands of forage shrubs and trees can be the best option to intensify animal production replacing traditional low performing grass—based systems.

In general, it is now clear that agricultural production in the tropics, and animal production in particular, should be based, whenever possible, on systems with trees, that try to simulate the original multi—strata plant communities.

The purpose of this valuable documents is to provide the scientific basis for the contribution of legume tree foliages to ruminant production, particularly from the points of view of their overall high nutritive value, and positive effects on rumen function, microbial yields and body metabolism, and to encourage livestock experts and producers to consider the inclusion of forage legume trees in ruminant production systems.

T. fujita
Animal Production and Health Division

This publication was typeset by William Bennett of the Department of Animal Science, University of New England, using LATEX 2ε on a Digital Equipment Corporation System 600 5/333, running Digital Unix 3.2.


The encyclopaedic knowledge of TEX and LATEX and the patience—above all, the patience— of Piet van Oostrum, University Lecture in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Utrecht.

Ms Aracelis Díaz Hernández,from the Facultad de Agronomia at the Universidad Central de Venezuela supplied the photographs for Figures 4.5 on page 61,4.7 on page 65 and 5.2 on page 81. these came from her Doctor of Philosophy thesis, at the time in preparation.

Professor James Rowe, Head of the Department of Animal Science at the University of New England, allowed the facilities of the Department to be used in the preparation of the book.

Hyperlinks to non-FAO Internet sites do not imply any official endorsement of or responsibility for the opinions, ideas, data or products presented at these locations, or guarantee the validity of the information provided. The sole purpose of links to non-FAO sites is to indicate further information available on related topics.


1. Trees-components of farming systems

1.1. Introduction

1.2. Feed resources available for ruminant production in developing countries

1.3. Overview: the potential uses of tree foliages

1.4. Tree foliage as ruminant feeds—perspectives and properties

1.5. Trees in the agricultural ecosystem

1.6. Tree foliage as basal feed or a supplements to other foliages

2.  Background nutrition, digestive physiology and metabolism of ruminants

2.1. Introduction

2.2. Forage/feed resources in developing countries

2.3. Animal productivity from forage resources in the tropics 

2.3.1. Effects if high heat load on animal production

2.4. Improving rminant production on low digestibility forages

2.5. Rumen digestive physiology

2.6. Mictobial growth in the rumen

2.6.1. Requirements for amino acids by rumen microbes

2.6.2. Inefficiencies of microbial growth

2.6.3. Inefficiency, microbial growth and heat generation in the rumen

2.7. The effects of specific nutrient deficiencies on rumen microbes

2.7.1 Recent studies on the effects of ammonia levels on digestibility of forage and microbial growth efficiency in the rumen

2.8. Overview of microbial growth efficiency

2.8.1. Strategies to alter P/E ratio in the nutrients absorbed by ruminants

2.8.2. Manipulating P/E ratios using bypass protein supplements

2.9. Feeding standards-are they applicable to forage diets?

2.10. Role of fodder trees in the nutrition of ruminants

3. Balancing nutrition to maximize forage utilization

3.1. Concepts of balanced nutrition

3.2. Meeting nutritional requirements of ruminants with appropriate supplements

3.3. Supplying the rumen microbes with ammonia

3.4. Some examples of the value of multinutrients in cattle given forage based diets

3.4.1. Effects of supplementation with urea/molasses/multinutrient blocks (MUMB) on cattle production

3.4.2. Effects of multinutrient mixes on growth rates and milk yield of cattle

3.4.3. Effects of MUMB on reproduction of cattle, sheep and goats

3.4.4. Conclusions on reproductive efficiency

3.5. Conclusions on the use of supplements that provide critically deficient nutrients

3.6. Crude protein requirements of ruminants

3.7. Application of the new feeding strategies based on balancing nutrients

3.7.1. Major applications of balanced nutrition in developing animal production systems

3.8. Availability of bypass protein meals 

3.9. Identification of bypass protein sources

4. Potential roles of tree fodders in ruminant nutrition

4.1. Introduction

4.2. Anti-nutritional and nutritionally beneficial aspects of tannins in forages

4.3. Effects of tannins on rumen function

4.4. Tannin in plant foliage

4.5. Tannin mobilization

4.6. The implications of tannin build-up in foliage

4.7. Tannins in the rumen

4.8. Other secondary plant compounds in fodder trees

4.9. Comparisons of tree foliages and multinutrient blocks as supplements to ruminants fed poor quality feeds

4.10. Tree foliage as supplements to pasture or other low quality forages

4.11. Improvements in productivity of cattle from supplementation with tree foliage

4.12. Responses of cattle to supplementation of forage based diets with tree foliage

4.13. Evidence for tree foliages as sources of rumen ammonia and minerals

4.14. Foliage of fodder trees as mineral supplements

4.15. Tree foliage as potential sources of bypass proteins

4.16. Nutritional ecology of ruminants

4.17. Overall

4.18. Conclusions on the use of trees as fodder for ruminants

5. Bypass proteins from tree foliages

5.1. Introduction

5.2. Natural protection of leaf proteins

5.3. Effects of drying fodder tree foliage

5.4. Effects of adding chemicals

5.5. Tree foliages as supplements or as basal diets

5.6. High density forage production from Leucaena

5.7. Assaying the nutritional value of protein in leaf foliages or meals

5.8. Conclusions

5.9. Postscript

6. Bibliography

List of Figures

1.1The changing demand for meat/milk in developing countries according to per capita income
2.1Intake by cattle of low digestibility forages either unsupplemented or supplemented with bypass protein, or bypass protein and urea
2.2A model of the effect of increasing efficiency of cell synthesis on various products of the true digestion of 1 kg of polysaccharide in the rumen
2.3A model of the relationship between the efficiency of nett microbial cell synthesis and the protein ratios in the products of the true digestion of 1 kg of polysaccharide in the rumen
2.4The effects of the level of rumen ammonia on the intake and in sacco digestibility of straw by cattle
2.5The effects of increasing levels of rumen ammonia on rumen microbial  growth, in sacco digestibility of oaten chaff and fungal and protozoal biomass
2.6Schematic relationship between diet quality and food conversion efficiency
3.1Summary of liveweight responses of young Bos indicus cross cattle to various levels of urea during the dry season in Northern Australia
3.2The pattern of milk production in several villages in India where similar cattle and buffalo were fed with or without MUMB
3.3Milk collection records and the sale of supplements in a milk co-operative in the Kedah district of India
3.4The response in liveweight gain of cattle fed basal poor quality forage supplemented with cottonseed meal
4.1Examples of hydrolyzable and condensed tannins and their constituent units
4.2A theoretical balance of nutrients arising from feeding soluble protein, insoluble protein and carbohydrate to ruminants
4.3Cattle growth on pasture as a function of pasture type, fertilizer application and legume concentration
4.4Tree fodders for cattle production in the tropics: Gliricidia sepium plus Pachecoa venezuelensis
4.5Tree fodder for cattle production in the tropics: Leucaena pallidum
4.6Tree fodders (protein banks) for cattle production in the tropics: Gliricidia sepium
4.7Tree fodder for cattle production in the tropics: Albizia chinensis.
5.1Effects of supplementation of lambs fed oaten chaff without supplements and with/without treated lucerne
5.2Tree fodders (protein banks) for cattle production in the tropics
5.3Tree fodders (protein banks) for cattle production in the tropics

List of Tables

1.1World trade in oilseed cakes
2.1Effect of different efficiencies of microbial growth on the production of end products in the rumen of a steer
2.2Effects on P/E ratio in the nutrients absorbed of supplementation with a bypass protein to cattle with differing rumen microbial milieux
3.1Effects of MUMB supplements on growth rate of Friesian Holstein steers Ongole steers, sheep and goats fed cut/carry pasture in Indonesia
3.2Effect of MUMB supplement on milk yields of Friesian-Holstein dairy cattle given cut/carry forage in Indonesia
3.3Effects of urea/sulphur supplementation on birth weight of lambs and calves fed poor quality forages
3.4Effect of MUMB on milk yield of grazing cows in Cuba and the Dominican Republic
3.5Effect of MUMB on performance of African hair sheep
3.6Results of strategic supplementation to balance nutrition of cattle consuming poor quality roughage supplemented with bypass protein
4.1Tannin increases in three tree species in response to the effects of simulated grazing damage
4.2Effects of various feed supplements on liveweight gain of cattle grazing on green Brachiaria decumbens pastures in the wet season
4.3Liveweight gain and intake by growing cattle grazing Cynodon nlemfuensis with/without supplements
4.4Effects of feeding MUMB to cattle at pasture in relation to the effects of having Leucaena within the pasture system
4.5Concentration of some minerals in the foliage of some forage tree legumes
4.6Liveweight gain and wool growth in sheep fed ad libitum hay supplemented with various levels of fresh Calliandra leaf
4.7Effects of increasing levels of Leucaena forage in a diet of tropical grass fed to cattle
4.8Effects of Leucaena foliage supplementation in a diet of sorghum straw with or without urea given to sheep
5.1Liveweight gains of cattle grazing grass pasture either with or without access to Leucaena forage
5.2Effects of supplement of dry foliage and/or protected protein on growth rate of goats fed Napier grass
5.3Comparison of the effect of tree foliage supplements fed fresh or after drying to goats
5.4Effect of drying temperature on solubility and digestibility of N and N balance in lambs fed dried, chopped lucerne hay
5.5Effects on liveweight gain of cattle of various supplements added to a basal forage/concentrate based diet
5.6Liveweight gain and wool growth of sheep fed supplemented oaten chaff