Livestock Research for Rural Development 18 (5) 2006 Guidelines to authors LRRD News

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The effect of supplementing urea treated maize stover with Tithonia, Calliandra and Sesbania to growing goats

C C Wambui, S A Abdulrazak and Q Noordin*

Department of Animal Science, Egerton University, P.O. Box 536, Njoro, Kenya
*World Agroforestry Centre, PO Box, 2389, Kisumu, Kenya


A study was conducted to compare the effects of feeding Tithonia diversifolia (Tithonia) with Calliandra calothyrsus (Calliandra) and Sesbania sesban (Sesbania) tree legume forages as protein supplements to a basal diet of urea treated maize stover. Sixteen goats (German Alpine crosses) averaging one year and weighing 11.7±1.8kg were used to measure the feed intake, digestibility and live weight gains for 7 weeks. The basal diet (urea treated maize stover) plus 100g of maize germ was offered alone (control) or supplemented with 30 % on dry matter basis of Tithonia, Calliandra and Sesbania, respectively.


The intake of the basal diet was not significantly (P>0.05) affected by supplementation with browse foliage but resulted in significant (P<0.05) increase in total dry matter intake, diet digestibility and nitrogen retention compared to the control. Nitrogen retention was 4.98, 4.44, 1.10 and, 2.10, g/day for Sesbania, Tithonia, Calliandra and control respectively. Supplementation significantly (P<0.05) increased the average daily gains from 20.9g/day for the control to 82.7, 57.1, and 39.3g/day for Tithonia, Calliandra and Sesbania respectively. Tithonia has potential as a protein supplement and could be used as an alternative to Calliandra and Sesbania in growing goats fed with low quality basal diets.

Keywords: Calliandra, goats, intake, N retention, Sesbania, Tithonia, weight gain


Performance of small ruminants in the tropics is constrained by low voluntary intake and digestibility of the basal feed, which mainly constitutes of crop residues (Premaratne et al 1998; Kaitho and Kariuki 1998). Protein is the most limiting nutrient often falling below 7%, the minimum level required for optimum microbial growth. Tree legumes, which persist during the seasons of pasture scarcity, have been shown to contribute protein-rich forage, digestible energy and minerals when used either as supplements or as sole feed (Abdulrazak et al 1997).


Calliandra and Sesbania have been used to supplement maize stover and teff straw respectively with significant increases in weight gains (Kaitho 1997; Nherera et al 1998). The two tree legumes have been adopted in Kenya as protein supplements to poor quality grasses and cereal by-products in the cut-and-carry feeding systems. This is due to their hardiness and favourable chemical composition with crude protein contents of 18.8 to 31.3% in the DM of edible leaves and stem (Kaitho and Kariuki 1998). An improved animal performance in terms of milk yield has been reported with Calliandra though high in tannin levels (Paterson et al 2000). Live weight gains have also been shown to increase which is an indication of the beneficial effects of tannins where they bind to proteins and facilitate the escape of the protein for digestion in the lower gut (Palmer et al 1994; Nherera et al 1998). Sesbania on the other hand has high in-vitro digestibilities and better nutritional profile than most browse species (Gutteridge 1994) though its utilisation by ruminants is hampered by presence of saponins and its inability to withstand repeated cutting management (Roothaert and Paterson 1997).


Tithonia is a herbaceous plant of the Asteracea (compositae) family originally from Central America (Wanjau et al 1998). In Kenya it is found in Central and Western provinces as well as in coastal regions and some parts of the Rift Valley. It adapts to a wide range of conditions like acidity and low soil fertility. It's a robust shrub with fast growth that can withstand intensive pruning to the ground level unlike Sesbania, (Roothaert and Paterson 1997). Protein content in the leaves of Tithonia is about 28% in DM (Premarante et al 1998) and is thus classified as a species of high protein value that falls within the levels of 12 to 30% reported by Norton (1994). Tithonia may therefore be able to be used to provide the deficient nutrients in the crop residues. However little documented information exists on its nutritive value as a livestock feed despite high chemical composition profile that displays its potential as a protein supplement.


The objective of the study was to evaluate the effects of supplementation with Tithonia, Calliandra or Sesbania on feed intake, digestibility and live weight changes of goats offered a basal diet of urea treated maize stover.


Materials and methods

Study site


The experiment was conducted at the Bukura Agricultural College in Kakamega District, Western Province of Kenya. The area lies in agro-ecological zone I, the lower mid-land zone normally described as the sugar cane zone. It has an altitude of between 1300 and 1500m above sea level, annual temperature of between 20 and 220C, and annual average rainfall of 1800 to 2000 mm (Jaetzold and Schmidt 1982).



Sixteen cross breed bucks (German Alpine X Small East Africa) approximately one year old were used for this experiment with initial mean live weight of 11.7±1.8 kg. All the goats were drenched with an antihelminthic (Nilzan plus®) containing 3.0% oxycloxanide, 1.5% Levamisole hydrochloride with 0.382% Cobalt sulphate and sprayed with an Almitraz based acaricide (Triatix®) before commencement of the experiment. Animals were housed in individual cages inside a well-ventilated shed.



Hybrid maize (614 D) planted with diammonium phosphate (DAP) and top-dressed with CAN (calcium ammonium nitrate) at the rate of 50kg/ha in the college farm was used as the source of stover. After grain harvesting, the stover was cut at a height of approximately 30cm above the ground, tied in bundles and stored in a shed until used in the experiment. Manual chopping of stover to sizes of approximately 40mm was done before treatment with 4% urea for two weeks (400g of urea in 10 litres of water per 10 kg of stover). Tithonia (leaves and tender shoots), Calliandra and Sesbania (leaves) were collected from already established pure stands planted in rows to demarcate strips of land at the Bukura Energy Centre adjacent to the college. The forages of these trees and shrub were collected in advance, air dried for 3-5 days on the floor of a raised barn and bagged for use during the experiment.

Experimental design and procedures


The goats were allocated to three treatment diets and a control in a Completely Randomised Design (CRD) with four goats per treatment. The experimental diets were as follows; urea treated maize stover plus 100g maize germ (control), or control plus 27, 30 and 32% on dry matter basis of Tithonia, Calliandra, and/or Sesbania. Feeding of the maize germ and supplementary browse foliage was done once daily in the morning at approximately 08.00h while the stover was offered ad libitum, at twice the expected requirement, and adjusted based on the previous days intake. Feed residues were collected and weighed before offering fresh feed the following day and samples taken on weekly basis for determination of Dry Matter (DM). Water and a mineral lick containing (%): Ca-2.6, P-1.4, Na-31.93, Cl-49.28, Mg-1.8, Cu-0.32, Co-0.04, CaO-3.64, K-0.006, I-0.02, Zn-0.36, Mn-0.28, S-0.36, P2O5-3.21, NaCl-81.21, and a Ca:P ratio 1.8:1 were available free of choice. Animals were weighed weekly before morning feeding with a hanging scale on a specific set day of the week.


Urine and faeces were collected for N and faecal DM analysis in the last 7 days of the trial. Urine was collected over 25 ml of 10% sulphuric acid and a sample refrigerated pending analysis. 10 % of total faecal output per animal was dried in an oven at 550C for 48 hr and stored for later analysis. At the end of the collection period, the urine and faecal samples for each animal were bulked, mixed and a sub sample obtained for DM, N, and ash determination.


Rumen liquor was extracted from the goats using a stomach tube at 0hr and 4hr during the last two days of the feeding trial. The pH of the sample was determined immediately using a pH meter. Dry Matter, CP, EE and ash of feed and faeces was determined using the official methods of the Association of Analytical Chemists (AOAC 1990) while Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF) and Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) were determined by the method of Van Soest et al (1991). Total extractable phenolics (TEPH) and total extractable tannins (TET) were determined as described by Abdulrazak and Fujihara (1999).

Statistical analysis


Data from the experiment was subjected to analysis of variance using the general linear model (GLM) of the SAS computer package (Statistical Analysis Systems 1998). Treatment means were separated using Least Significance Difference (LSD).




The forages had higher CP contents than the maize stover (Table 1). Tithonia had high levels of ash unlike the other supplements and Calliandra had the highest concentration of both TEPH and TET as compared to Tithonia and Sesbania.

Table 1.  Chemical composition in % DM of feedstuffs used in the experiment










Maize stover









Maize germ




































DM=dry matter, NDF=neutral detergent fibre, ADF=acid detergent fibre, EE=ether extract, CP=crude protein, Nd= not determined, TEPH= total extractable phenolics, TET=total extractable tannins

Among the forage supplements Sesbania was the least consumed initially but was all consumed subsequently. Supplementation with either of the forages increased significantly (P<0.05) the total DM intake (Table 2). However, the stover DM intake was not significantly (P>0.05) affected by supplementation though the Tithonia group had relatively higher intakes (336g/day) than the rest of the treatments 271, 251 and 221g/day for control, Calliandra and Sesbania respectively. Diet dry matter digestibility (DMD) and organic matter digestibility (OMD) were also improved with supplementation.

Table 2.  Mean DM intake (DMI) and digestibility of goats offered UTMS supplemented with Tithonia, Calliandra or Sesbania foliage







DMI, g/day






Maize stover


336 a

251 a

221 a


Maize germ

89.54 a

91.61 a

90.23 a

92.53 a



0 b

154 a

146 a




360 b

582 a

488a b

459 a b








DM, g/kg DM


611 a


624 a


OM, g/kg DM


622 a

616 a

619 a


Means across a row with different superscript are significantly different at (P<0.05)

SEM=standard error of the mean

Table 3.  Rumen pH, nitrogen balance and ADG (g/day) of goats offered UTMS and supplemented with Tithonia, Calliandra or Sesbania forage







Rumen pH 0hr






Rumen pH 4hr






Nitrogen Balance






Intake, g/day






Faecal, g/day






Urine, g/day






Nitrogen retention






ADG, g/day






Means across a row with different superscripts are significantly different at (P<0.05). SEM=standard error of the mean

The rumen pH was unaffected by supplementation (Table 3). The N intakes of the supplemented groups were similar (P>0.05) and higher than for the control (P<0.05). Faecal N loss appeared to be highest in the Calliandra group. Urinary loss of nitrogen was greatest in the Tithonia group. Goats supplemented with Tithonia gained significantly more weight than the other groups (P<0.05). Calliandra was not different from the Sesbania group but was better than the control (P<0.05). The Sesbania and control groups were statistically the same (P>0.05).



Chemical composition


The CP contents of Tithonia, Calliandra and Sesbania were consistent with values reported in the literature (Dzowela et al 1995; Kwabiah et al 2003). Urea treatment improved the CP content of maize stover from 5.1% to 8.34%,  a level similar to the recommended 7% required for optimum rumen microbial functioning. The high ash content in Tithonia was similar to that in Morus alba (Nguyen and Ngoan 2003) probably an indication of high concentrations of minerals as reported by Kwabiah et al (2003). Among the browse foliages, Calliandra had the highest concentrations of both TEPH and TET in agreement with Merkel et al (1999) who reported Calliandra as having the highest levels of proanthocyanidins.

Effect of supplementation on feed intake and digestibility


Nutrient intakes from crop residues like maize stover, which are characterised by high lignocellulose and low N are generally insufficient for maintenance requirements if fed alone. Treatment of such material is advocated for to break the lignocellulose bonds and free some of the cellulose for digestion by the ruminant animal. However treatment in itself alone is not sufficient to meet the animal's maintenance and production requirements. Supplementation is thus necessary in addition to treatment for meaningful production to be achieved (Munthali et al 1991). The stover in this experiment had relatively high crude protein levels (8.4% CP) as a result of treatment as compared to 2.9% reported by Abdulrazak et al (1997).


Supplementation generally increased the total DM intake. This may be attributed to ability of the forage supplements to provide N and energy for the cellulolytic microbes upon degradation in the rumen, especially for the Tithonia group, which had the highest intake of stover. These results are in agreement with Kaitho (1997) who proposed that a good supplement is one that either maintains the intake of the basal diet or enhances it.


The rumen pH in this experiment was not affected by supplementation. The values were in the range of 6.3 and 7 considered optimal for microbial activity and growth (Muia 2000). Supplementation with legumes as was the case in the current experiment is associated with more ruminating time thus maintaining the rumen pH through salivation.

Nitrogen retention and ADG


Nitrogen retention has been found to increase and decrease with inclusion of tannins in the diet (Barry et al 1986; Reed et al 1990 as cited by Merkel et al 1996). N-retention increases if protein-tannin complexes are protected from rumen degradation but released further down the digestive tract and digested. The low tannin levels in Sesbania and Tithonia groups and their higher DM digestibilities than Calliandra group diets led to their extensive degradation in the rumen producing NH3, which is converted to urea in the liver. Excess plasma urea is excreted in the urine thus urine N was high in these two groups compared to Calliandra and the control. Condensed tannins binding to proteins in the Calliandra group may have led to the low amounts of urinary nitrogen excreted. Waghorn et al (1987), as cited by Merkel et al (1996), argued that reduced amounts of N excreted in urine can be experienced when condensed tannins bind to proteins with slow ruminal breakdown of protein and subsequently reduced rate of ruminal NH3 production. Less protein may have been degraded in the rumen for the Calliandra group compared to Tithonia and Sesbania that had relatively high levels of urinary nitrogen loss.


Animals fed tannin-containing feedstuffs excrete more faecal NDF-N than control animals fed feeds containing little or no tannin (Barry et al 1986; Reed et al 1990 as cited by Merkel et al (1996) hence low nitrogen retention. This is true of the Calliandra group in this experiment, which had the highest levels of faecal N loss. These results may be related to the high total condensed tannin content found in Calliandra that is known to reduce plant protein degradation (Ahn et al 1989) hence low or negative N balances. The high faecal loses in Calliandra led to the group having the least nitrogen retention while Sesbania group appeared to retain the highest proportion of nitrogen.


Despite having high levels of tannins and low digestibility compared to Tithonia and Sesbania, the Calliandra group gained 57.1 g/day. This was an increment of 173% over the control compared to an 88% increment for the Sesbania group. These results are in agreement with Nherera et al (1998) where Calliandra despite having high levels of both soluble and insoluble proanthocyanidins, and low intake of maize stover and low N intake, recorded the fastest growth rates (42g/day) compared to the three accessions of Leucaena, i.e. pallida (41.3g/d), esculenta (34.4g/d) and diversifolia (35.5g/d). This was mainly attributed to either the fact that goats were able to adapt to polyphenols in this tree fodder or the bulk of the polyphenols in this browse had no significant effect on digestion and metabolism in goats.


Gutteridge (1994) acknowledges that despite higher values for dry matter digestibility and better apparent nutrient status than many other browse trees, the live weight gains achieved in feeding experiments with Sesbania are often no better than for other tree forages. In this experiment, the Sesbania group gained 39.3g/day, in spite of a high CPI and DM digestibility. It is unlikely that the presence of anti-nutritive factors like tannins had had any effect on this response. The growth rates reported here are consistent with the findings of Kaitho (1997), of  live weight gains of 40.5g/day at 30% level of supplementation. The much higher gains (112 g/day) reported by Nguyen (1998) for goats on maize ear husks supplemented with Sesbania grandiflora could be as result of better basal diet than the maize stover used in the present study.


Premaratne et al (1997), while comparing Tithonia to Leucaena and Gliricidia, found that Tithonia had the best response in terms of increased dry matter intake and live weight gains. This was attributed to an increased rate and efficiency of microbial biomass production with Tithonia unlike the legume forages. It is not clear from this study why the response for Tithonia was higher than for Sesbania in spite of same digestibility and nitrogen retention. It is postulated that Tithonia stimulated a higher microbial nitrogen supply to the lower GIT that resulted in higher gains.



The authors are grateful to the African Network for Agro forestry Education (ANAFE) of the International Centre for Research in Agro forestry (ICRAF) for financing this work, Bukura Agricultural College for providing the site of study and logistical assistance and the Department of Animal Science, Egerton University for technical support.


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Received 4 February 2006, Accepted 31 March 2006; Published 11 May 2006

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