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Citation of this paper

Survey on the utilization of local foliage species for goats in Xaythanee district,Vientiane City

Kongmanila Daovy, T R Preston* and Inger Ledin**

Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos, Vientiane, Lao PDR

Finca Ecológica, UTA-Colombia, AA #48, Socorro, Santander, Colombia
Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences PO Box 7024, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden


A survey on the utilization of local foliage species for goats was conducted in five villages in Xaythanee district, Vientiane City, with in total 60 farmers keeping goats. Formal and informal interviews were used to obtain information on the agriculture and livestock situation.

The main animal species in this area were goats, cattle, pigs and poultry, and the production was based on traditional management methods. Extensive systems were common for ruminants. The main constraints for livestock production were diseases and lack of feed for ruminants, and a special problem of goat production was theft. Goats play a more important role as a source of income than other species of animal. The number of goats varied between 2 and 22 heads per household. There were 15 types of forage that were mentioned as available to goats and the most frequently used were from fruit trees such as Jackfruit, Jujube and Tamarind, and 58.8 %, 75.0 % and 76.7 % of the farmers interviewed mentioned these species. Most of the goats were raised in free grazing systems, with no feed supplementation. The farmers did not allow the goats to graze after kidding, but cut and carried some natural grasses and some foliages that were available for their goats. The most common way to present the foliage was in the fresh form (90 % of the farmers), some farmers wilted the foliage while no farmer presented the foliage dry.

In conclusion there were many types of forages available to goats, but only a few were used by the farmers.

Key words: farmer practices, grazing system, Laos, trees


In Lao PDR, livestock production in the villages is generally based on traditional management methods and the species kept are goats, cattle, pigs and poultry (Phengsavanh 2003). The animals are grazed on flatland, roadsides, forest land and on land not used for agriculture using the free range systems (Xaypha 2005). Goat production plays an important role in the agricultural sector in the rural areas, supplying meat and organic fertilizer. Farmers raise local breeds, which have a small body size, and there is a lack of feed during the dry season when diseases occur, resulting in low productivity and poor production (Phimphachanhvongsod 2001; Phengsavanh 2003; Xaypha 2005).

Using forage trees that have high nutritive value and relatively low cost is very popular in the smallholder farming systems of Southeast Asia (Dahlanuddin 2001), because feeding foliages often increases the dry matter digestibility and voluntary intake of low quality diets by supplementing a valuable protein source. Many foliages improve the feed supply in times of shortage of natural pasture, such as Kapok and Tamarind foliage (Theng Kouch 2003), Sesbania and Leucaena (Dahlanuddin 2001), Erythrina (Kibria et al 1994; Aregheore and Perera 2004), Jackfruit (Van et al 2005) and Gliricidia (Hao and Ledin 2001; Phengsavanh 2003).

However, at present, there is little research activity especially aimed at small ruminants and on existing farming systems in Laos. The aim of this survey was therefore to collect information about the use of local foliage resources for goats as a basis for developing research activities in the future.

Material and methods

Study area

The survey was conducted in Xaythanee District, Vientiane City, Lao PDR. This region consists mainly of flatland including agricultural land, forest and grazing land. The number of households keeping goats has increased considerably in the last couple of years.

Farmer selection

Sixty farmers keeping goats were selected, depending on the number of goats in the household. This was equal to 28.3 % of the total number of farmers keeping goats, 212 households with 833 goats in total. The selection of the farmers was done according to the information from the head of the village about number of farmers keeping goats and number of goats in each household. The households were divided into two types: (1) 2 to 5 goats and (2) >5 goats per household. Among the farmers keeping goats a random selection of individual farmers for the interviews was done.

Data collection

Data were obtained from primary sources using two techniques: informal interviews and a formal questionnaire. The informal interviews involved were carried through with district and village officials and extension officers. The objective of these informal interviews was to obtain information on:

The informal interviews were conducted by the researchers before the start of the interviews of the farmers. A formal survey was conducted by using a structured questionnaire. A single household keeping goats was used as the sampling unit in this study. Sixty households were sampled from the district. A questionnaire was constructed to obtain the following information:

1- General information
2- Specific information on goat feeding


Livestock characteristics

The general reasons for keeping livestock were for sale, family consumption and to produce manure for cropping to maintain soil fertility. The main species of animals in the villages surveyed were goats, cattle, pigs and poultry, and the production was based on traditional management methods. Extensive systems are common for ruminants in theses areas. Animals might graze on communal grazing areas during the daytime in the flatlands or the forest land, on the roadside or scavenge around the village, and are usually kept in pens at night.

Table 1.  Average livestock population per household in the surveyed area



Mean (SD)





9.0 (8.4)





4.0 (3.7)





1.0 (0.4)





14.0 (12.8)



N: Number of interviewed farmers

In the surveyed area, the goats were more important for cash income than other animal species. The number of goats per household ranged from 2 to 22 heads, with an average number of 9.0 (SD=8.4) (Table 1), and the ratio of males and females varied from 0.24 to 0.55 in Doun Eang village and Par Lai village, respectively (Table 2).

Table 2.  Male and female goats per household in the different villages






Doun Eang





Nar Pork





Saing Ou Dom





Par Lai





Park Xarb





M/F: Ratio of male and female

Most goats were raised in extensive systems, and were allowed to graze the whole day and were brought back to the pens in the evening with no feed supplementation. Some farmers provided salt or some local foliage available around the farm as supplementation in the pens before or after browsing/grazing. The goats were mostly kept within or very close to the villages, for security reasons. Theft was a problem for goat production in some villages, but the major constraints to livestock production in the district were diseases and lack of feed for ruminants, especially in the dry season.

Feed and feeding of local goats

Tables 3 and 4 show how the selected forages are used, seasonality in the selection and way of presenting the forages to local goats in Xaythanee district. There were 15 types of forages that were mentioned as available to goats. The most frequently mentioned came from fruit trees such as Jackfruit, Jujube and Tamarind (58.8%, 75.0% and 76.7% of total number of observations, respectively), which were harvested around the households and cut from the forest (43.3% of tree fodder and 45.0% of shrubs).

Table 3.  Proportion of households (n=60) using selected forages




Star apple






Water spinach
























Some foliage from forest



Some shrubs around house or forest












After kidding, 63.3 % of the households did not allow the goats to graze, but cut and carried some natural grasses, and some foliage for their goats in the pens. Fresh foliages were the most common way for presenting the feed, accounting for 90 % of the total observations in these areas. Drying foliages was not practiced.

Table 4.  Season for using browse and way of presenting the feed


Number of households

% of households


Dry season



Rainy season



After kidding






Way of presenting the feed











Livestock characteristics

Many studies have confirmed that farmers' livelihoods in Laos are based on agriculture. Livestock production was most important for cash income, family consumption and for producing manure for cropping, in the upland area: Luangphabang province (Phimphachanhvongsod 2001; Phengsavanh 2003) and in the lowland area: Savannakhet province (Xaypha 2005). Also in this study: Xaythanee district, Vientiane City, livestock production was important for reasons given above, while the crop production was for family consumption only.

The traditional management method and extensive systems for ruminant animals have been used by farmers for a long time. These systems result in a higher cash income from goats than from other animal species. The mean number of goats per household in the study area was 9.0 heads, similar to the upland area where the mean was 8 heads per household (Phengsavanh 2003). Some interviewed farmers in this survey reported that they planned to increase the number of goats, to expand the herd, but there was not enough land for raising goats and also many factors in the management methods that affect production negatively.

There was a problem with theft that seemed to be increasing. This could possibly be due to the increasing human population, and the fact that the goat is of a small size and is easy to carry. So farmers have to keep the goats within or close to the villages and also follow the goats when they graze during daytime for security reasons. However, the major constraints to livestock production in the study area were diseases caused lack of feed for ruminants, especially in the dry season. This is in agreement with the reports of ADB (2000) and Phimphachanhvongsod et al (2004) and is due to the farmers' lack of strategic use of veterinary medicines and knowledge of how to manage the existing feed resources.

Feeds and feeding of local goats

In the surveyed area, there were a lower number of forages available to goats, 15 in total, compared to the report of Dahlanuddin (2001), who recorded 42 different forages available to goats in Indonesia. This is probably an effect of different climatic conditions and vegetation. The forages from fruit trees such as Jackfruit, Jujube and Tamarind were used for feeding goats more frequently in this area. These foliages were available, preferred by goats and have a good nutritional quality for goats. According to some farmers Tamarind foliage can increase the milk yield of female goats after kidding. Farmers in Cambodia have also reported that Tamarind and Kapok are popular as feeds for goats (Theng Kouch 2003). However, many forages were of limited use in this area, even though there were forages of high nutritive value, especially with respect to protein content, which could increase feed intake and performance, for example foliages such as Erythrina, Banana, Kapok, Leucaena and Water spinach (Kibria et al 1994; Aregheore and Perera 2004; Theng Kouch et al 2006; Pheng Buntha and Ty 2006; Pathoummalangsy and Preston 2006). The reasons for the fact that only a few farmers used forages can be that the forages are not so available in this area or that the farmers do not have knowledge about how to use foliages form different trees and shrubs.

Almost all the interviewed farmers did not allow the goats to graze directly after kidding (63.3% of households) but cut and carried forages for their goats. The reason given for this was that it was easier to take care of the kids and to have control over the health and rehabilitation of the doe. The feed was always presented fresh and there are many forages with green leaves available in the rainy season. Drying was not practised by the farmers. Drying could be one possible method of conserving feed for the dry season. The indigenous knowledge concerning suitable forages species for goats was important but information on better feeding and animal management needs to be transferred to the farmers.



The authors are extremely grateful to the Swedish International Development Agency/ Department for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (Sida/SAREC) for financial support of this survey, the Agriculture and Forestry Extension Office, Xaythanee District, Vientiane, Lao PDR for giving general information of the district. Thanks are also due to the headmen and farmers in the five villages for helping and giving information on goat feeding and management.


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