Use of sorghum stover as dry season fodder for ruminants, Ethiopia


Cereal stovers are widely used for feeding ruminant livestock, and in semi-arid areas sorghum stover may be an important part of livestock diets during the dry season, helping to maintain condition and increase survival. Bird-resistant varieties of sorghum have been bred for use in semi-arid zones to increase yields of grain in areas most affected by birds. However, the same properties that confer bird-resistance, act as anti-nutritive factors for ruminant livestock, and may therefore lower the value of sorghum stover as livestock fodder. Strategies involving feeding of excess stover enables animals to preferentially select leaf material rather than stem, which has greater concentrations of anti-nutritive factors.


Crop residues are important feed resources and increased ruminant production can be accomplished through improved utilisation of the crop residues. Stovers are the mature cured stalks from grain crops, typically maize or sorghum, with the grain or corn removed. Cereal stovers are relatively poor in nutritive value, which is concentrated in the harvested grain, but are widely used for feeding ruminants, often when other feeds are inadequate or unavailable towards the end of the dry season. The total value of these crops therefore lies in their grain yield as well as the use of the stovers for livestock feed.

In Africa, birds are one of a number of crop pests and limit grain production from sorghum. Bird resistance in sorghum is related to the amount of proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins) in the grain. Sorghum improvement programmes in Africa include selective breeding for bird resistant varieties for use in semi-arid zones where crops are most affected by birds. Stover from bird resistant sorghum has been shown to be less digestible than that from non-bird resistant sorghum.

Sorghum stover as fodder
Experimental results with sheep reported by OSAFO el al., (1996) have demonstrated an important practical feeding strategy, namely that chopped sorghum stover, offered at a high rate (approximately 800 g of raw forage per day for a ram of 35 kg), with mineral lick is sufficient to maintain weight of rams aged 15 to 20 months. It was concluded that chopped sorghum stover offered generously, with minerals but no other supplement, is a sustainable feeding strategy for maintaining weight in near-adult sheep.

These studies also suggested that although bird-resistant stover may be of overall lower nutritive value due to the presence of the anti-nutritive factors conferring bird resistance, the effect was possibly masked by the higher content of leaf in bird-resistant stover when compared to traditional non resistant sorghum varieties. When fed an excess of stover, the sheep were able to select a greater proportion of leaf and leaf stem which contain lower concentrations of anti-nutritive factors.

However, whereas OSAFO et al., (1996) demonstrated improvement in intake and liveweight change when the amount of stover offered was doubled, as a result of increased intake of leaf/leaf stem, additional studies by NSAHLAI et al., (1998) have in contrast indicated lower daily weight gain in sheep fed diets containing bird-resistant sorghum stover, and that these sheep excreted copious amounts of urine, probably in an attempt to eliminate toxic waste substances.

Since sorghum is a crop of the semi-arid regions, it is likely that whilst bird resistance increases the grain yield, it has resulted in stover that may be less suitable for livestock in an environment where water shortages are frequent. It is therefore necessary to consider the variety of sorghum when producing recommendations for animal feeding.

Environmental impact
Continued removal of stovers from the fields, and any other crop residue, will inevitably result in a reduction in the soil fertility and organic matter content of the areas affected. This impact can be limited if animal manures are used on the cereal crops.

Further reading
OSAFO, E.L.K., OWEN, E., SAID, A.N., GILL, E.M., and MCALLAN, A.B. (1993) Feeding sorghum stover to Ethiopian sheep and cattle: effect of chopping and amount offered on intake and selection. pp. 204-206. In: Animal Production in Developing Countries. Occasional Publication No 16. Gill, M., Owen, E., Pollott, G.E. and Lawrence, T.L.J. (Eds.). British Society of Animal Production.

OSAFO, E.L.K., OWEN, E., SAID, A.N., GILL, E.M., MCALLAN, A.B., and KEBEDE, Y. (1993) Sorghum stover as ruminant feed in Ethiopia: effect of cultivar, site of growth, pre-harvest leaf stripping and storage on yield and morphology. pp. 188-198. In: Animal Production in Developing Countries. Occasional Publication No 16. Gill, M., Owen, E., Pollott, G.E. and Lawrence, T.L.J. (Eds.). British Society of Animal Production.

OWEN, E., OSAFO, E., and SAID, A. (1993) Improving the use of sorghum stover as ruminant feed in Ethiopia. DFID Livestock Production Programme, Project Completion Summary Sheet, Project R5188. 1 pp.

OSAFO. E.L.K. (1993) Sorghum stover as a forage: Cultivar effects on yield and effect of chopping, amounts offered, supplementation and variety on intake, selection and liveweight gain in Ethiopian sheep and cattle. PhD Thesis, University of Reading.

REED J.D., TEDLA, A., and KEBEDE Y. (1987). Phenolics, fibre and fibre digestibility in the crop residue from bird resistant and non-bird resistant sorghum varieties. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 39:113-121.

Contact details for DFID research project teams
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Evidence of validation
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OSAFO, E.L.K, OWEN, E., SAID, A.N., GILL, M., and SHERINGTON, J. (1996) The effect of variety and amount offered of chopped sorghum stover on the performance of sheep. In Small Ruminant Research and Development in Africa. Proceedings of the Third Biennial Conference of the African Small Ruminant Research Network, UICC, Kampala, Uganda, 5-9 December 1994. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) Nairobi, Kenya. 326 pp.
NSAHLAI , I.V., UMUNNA, N.N., and OSUJI, P.O. (1998) Complementarity of bird-resistant and non-bird-resistant varieties of sorghum stover with cottonseed cake and noug (Guizotia abyssinica) cake when fed to sheep. Journal of Agricultural Science, 130: 229-239.
REED, J.D., CAPPER, B.S., and NEATE, P.J.H. (Eds). (1988) Plant breeding and the nutritive value of crop residues. Proceedings of a workshop held at ILCA, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7-10 December 1987. ILCA, Addis Ababa.
OWEN, E. (1994) Cereal crop residues as feed for goats and sheep. Livestock Research for Rural Development, Volume 6, Number 1, March 1994.

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DFID disclaimer
This technology is an output from the Renewable Natural Resources Research strategy funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID.

Technology selected and record compiled from original project documentation by Natural Resources International Ltd, with funding from DFID’s Central Research Department (Communications). Implementing and advising on this process were: Karen Wilkin and Tina Rowland (joint project leaders), Andy Frost, Vino Graffham, Jody Sunley, Liz McVeigh, RNRRS programme staff, FAO’s Research and Technology Development Service, FAO’s LEAD programme, DFID’s Central Research Department, Ken Campbell, Graham Farrell (Plant Clinic), Simon Eden-Green, Peter Golob, John Esser, Liz Betser (360º Responsibility). Validation domain reviewed by the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), Simon Eden-Green and Peter Golob. Uploading by Random X Solutions Ltd. For more information, please contact Karen Wilkin, NR International Ltd or Tina Rowland, Random X Solutions Ltd.





Created date

Thu, 13/07/2006 - 18:43

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