Livestock Research for Rural Development 14 (6) 2002

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Performance, nutrient utilisation and organ characteristics of broilers fed Microdesmis puberula leaf meal

B O Esonu, F C Iheukwumere*, O O Emenalom, M C Uchegbu and E B Etuk

Department of Animal Science and Technology, Federal University of Technology
PMB 1526, Owerri- Nigeria.
*Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Abia State University
PMB 7010, Umuahia, Nigeria.


A 35-day feeding trial involving 180, 5-week old Hubbard broilers was carried out in a completely randomized design to evaluate the performance, nutrient utilization and organ characteristics of broilers fed Microdesmis puberula leaf meal at dietary levels of 0, 10 and 15%, respectively.

Feed intake, body weight gain, feed conversion ratio and organ weight of birds on the control (0%) and 10% leaf meals were significantly superior to the group on 15% leaf meal. The utilization of dry matter (DM), crude protein, ether extract and ash was significantly poorer  at the 15% dietary level.

It is suggested that 10% inclusion level of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal could be used in broiler finisher diets without any deleterious effects on the birds. Further research is necessary to improve the nutritive value of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal for monogastric animals in view of its relative cheapness and abundance. 

Keywords: Microdesmis puberula leaf meal, performance, broilers. 


Poultry meat and eggs offer considerable potential for bridging the protein gap in view of the fact that high yielding exotic poultry are easily adaptable to our environment and the technology of production is relatively simple with returns on investment appreciably high (Idufueko 1984; Madubuike 1992). That the poultry industry in Nigeria is undergoing very turbulent times and on the brink of collapse gives cause for concern. More than 50% of the country’s poultry farms have closed down and another 30% forced to reduce their production capacity because of shortage of feed (Esonu et al 2001). 

Feed accounts for 70-85% of the production cost of poultry (Opara 1996). The bulk of the feed cost arises from protein concentrates such as groundnut cake, fish meal and soybean meal. Prices of these conventional protein sources have soared so high in recent times that it is becoming uneconomical to use them in poultry feeds (Opara 1996; Esonu et al 2001). There is need therefore to look for locally available and cheap sources of feed ingredients particularly those that do not attract competition in consumption between humans and livestock. 

One possible source of cheap protein is the leaf meal of some tropical legumes and browse plants. Leaf meals do not only serve as protein source but also provide some necessary vitamins, minerals and also oxycarotenoids, which cause yellow colour of broiler skin, shank and egg yolks (D’Mello et al 1987; Opara 1996). Microdesmis puberula is a very popular tropical browse plant predominant in southern Nigeria. It is known in Igbo language as “Mkpiri or Mgbugbo” and in Yoruba language as “idiapata “ (Esonu et al 2001). So far no work has been done on the use of the leaf meal of this browse plant as feed ingredient in monogastric animals diets. This trial herein reported was therefore designed to examine the nutritional value of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal in broiler finisher diets. 

Materials and methods 

The leaves of Microdesmis puberula were harvested from the bush around the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria. The leaves were chopped for faster and effective drying. The chopped leaves were sun-dried for three days until they become crispy while still retaining the greenish colouration. The dried leaves were then milled using a hammer mill to produce leaf meal. A sample of the leaf meal was subjected to proximate analysis according to AOAC (1995). Mineral analysis was carried out by the methods of Grueling (1966) while gross energy was determined with a Gallenkamp adiabatic oxygen bomb calorimeter (Table 1).  

Table 1. Composition of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal
Nutrients % DM
Dry matter (in air-dry meal) 84.9
Crude protein 17.3
Crude fat 6.52
Ash content 12.2
Crude fibre 24.8
Nitrogen free extract 24.0
Gross Energy (MJ/kg) 18.7
Minerals % DM
Calcium 1.61
Magnesium 1.66
Sodium 2.00
Potassium 0.39
Phosphorus 0.24
Iron 1.90

Based on the result of the chemical analysis three broiler finisher diets were formulated to contain Microdemis puberula leaf meal at 0, 10 and 15% respectively. The treatment diets were isoenergetic and isonitrogenous (Table 2).  

Table 2: Composition of the treatment diets


Dietary levels of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal, %
0 10 15
Maize     55.00 55.00 55.00
Soybean meal 17.00 19.00 19.00
Leaf meal 0.00 10.00 15.00
Brewer’s dried grains 12.00 4.00 1.00
Palm kernel meal 8.00 4.00 1.00
Fish meal 4.00 4.00 4.00
Bone meal 3.00 3.00 3.00
Vit/Min. premix* 0.50 0.50 0.50
Common salt 0.50 0.50 0.50
Calculated chemical composition (% in DM) 
Crude protein 20.0 20.0 20.0
Crude fibre 4.16 6.57 8.17
Neutral ether extract 3.87 4.65 4.95
Calcium 1.43 1.85 1.86
Phosphorus 0.59 0.56 0.57
ME (MJ/kg) 12.82 12.58 12.52
*To provide the following per kg of diet: Vit A 10,000 iu, vitamin D3 2000 iu, vitamin E 5 iu, vitamin K 2mg, riboflavin 4. 20mg; vitamin B12 0.01mg; pantothenic acid 5mg; nicotinic acid 20mg; folic acid, 0.5mg; choline 3mg; Mg 56mg; Fe 20mg; Cu, 10mg; Zn 50mg; Co 125mg; Iodine 0.8mg.

One hundred and eighty, 5-week old Hubbard broiler chicks were divided into 3 groups of 60 birds each and randomly assigned to the three treatment diets in a completely randomized design (CRD) experiment. Each treatment group was further sub-divided into 3 replicates of 20 birds per replicate and kept in a 6m x 8m compartment. Feed and water were provided ad libitum. Feed intake was recorded daily and the birds were weighed weekly. Other routine poultry management procedures were maintained. The feeding trial lasted 35 days. At the end of the 35th day, five birds were randomly selected from each replicate and transferred to metabolism cages (one bird per cage) for faecal collection, determination of nutrient utilisation and proximate composition. Excreta were collected from beneath the metabolism cages twice daily on polythene sheets, feathers and feed particles were carefully removed and the excreta weighed. The collections for each day were sun dried and weight recorded.  

The 7-day samples were pooled, ground and then analysed for dry matter, crude protein, crude fibre, ether extract and total ash (AOAC 1995). Another five birds were randomly selected from each of the treatment groups, deprived of feed but not water for a day, slaughtered and eviscerated for organ weight determination. The data collected were subjected to analysis of variance (Snedecor and Cochran 1978). Where significant treatment effects were detected from the analysis of variance, means were compared using Duncan’s New Multiple Range Test as outlined by Obi (1990).  


The chemical composition of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal is shown in Table 1, while the nutrient composition of the experimental diets is shown in Table 2.  

Data on performance, nutrient utilisation (expressed as 100*[Intake-Excreta]/Intake) and organ characteristics, of the birds on the various dietary levels of the leaf meal are presented in Table 3.  

Table 3. Effect of different dietary levels of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal on the performance of broiler finisher.

Dietary level of leaf meal, %

0    10 15 SEM
Initial body weight of birds (g) 670 675 655 5.35
Final body weight of birds (g) 2075a 2070a 1640b 6.57
Body weight changes (g) 1405a 1395a 985b 4.65
Daily body weight gain (g) 40.1a 39.8a 28.1b 2.65
Daily feed intake (g) 144a 150a 131b 0.25
Feed conversion ratio (g feed/ g gain) 3.60a 3.76a 4.66b 0.17
Organ weight, % body weight        
Heart 0.50a 0.54a 0.46b 0.02
Liver 2.04a 1.97a 1.44b 0.04
Gizzard 2.84a 2.61a 2.03b 0.05
Abdominal fat 2.36a 1.88a 1.66b 0.12

Nutrient Utilisation, %

Dry matter 80.3a 70.2a 58.0b 5.02
Crude protein 74.32a 65.05ab 55.31b 3.35
Crude fibre 68.55a 63.45ab 58.55b 2.02
Neutral ether extract 93.82a 82.31a 50.83b 4.01
Ash 57.23b 58.22b 62.70a 1.04
ab means within rows with different letters are different (P<0.05).

Feed intake, growth rate and feed conversion, were similar for the groups on the control (0%) and 10% dietary level of the leaf meal  and were significantly better than for the group on 15% leaf meal. The relative organ weights of the groups on the control (0%) and 10% leaf meal diets were significantly (P<0.05) higher than for the group on 15% leaf meal.  The utilization of DM, crude protein, ether extract and NFE decreased with increasing levels of leaf meal (Table 3) with significantly lower values at the 15% leaf meal level compared with the control.  No mortality was recorded during the feeding trial. 


The depression in performance with the 15% level of  Microdemis puberula leaf meal agrees with the general observation that at high leaf meal inclusion levels in poultry diets the growth is depressed (D’Mello and Acamovic 1989; Opara 1996; Ash et al 1992), even when maize oil was used to compensate for the low metabolisable energy value of the leaf meal (Opara 1996). D’Mello et al (1987) reported that a diet containing 10% leaf meal of Leucaena leucocephala significantly depressed the body weight gain of birds without affecting dry matter intake. The depressed body weight gain of the broilers fed 15% leaf meal might be due to the fact that feed intake was low due to high bulk or fibre content of the leaf meal resulting in insufficient consumption of digestible nutrients particularly protein and energy required to sustain rapid growth. This result is also in line with earlier observations of Ash et al (1992) that leaf meals from Sesbania sesban and Sesbania grandiflora depressed feed utilization efficiency in chickens. Cheeke et al (1983) reported a 71% depressed growth rate in chicks fed a diet containing 20% Robinia pseudoacacia leaf meal when compared to the control (0%) group.  Another possible cause of the drop in feed intake could be that the leaf meal imparted an unpalatable taste to the feed, which consequently inhibited the birds from consuming adequate quantities (Omekam 1994).  

From the results of this study, it would appear that a 10% inclusion level of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal could be used in broiler finisher diets without any deleterious effects on performance. Further research is necessary to determine how to increase the nutritive value of Microdesmis puberula leaf meal for monogastric animals in view of its relative cheapness and abundance.             


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Received 15 August 2002


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