Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (6) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Supplementary feeding increases live weight gain of Angoni cattle during the dry season in Mozambique

Paula Pimentel*, Filipe Vilela**, Damiao W Nguluve***, James P Muir**** and Adolfo José**

* Directorate of Training, Documentation and Technology Transfer Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique (IIAM), P. O. Box 22, Maputo, Mozambique
** Angonia Research Station, Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique (IIAM), P. O. Box 22, Maputo, Mozambique
*** Directorate of Animal Sciences, Mozambique Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique (IIAM), P. O. Box 22, Maputo, Mozambique
**** Texas AgriLife Research, Texas A&M System, 1229 North U.S. Highway 281, Stephenville TX 76401 USA


Rangelands form the basic feed resource for livestock in Mozambique. However, the decline in the nutritive value of natural pastures during the dry season accentuates body weight losses resulting in delayed puberty, high mortality and low reproductive performance. Alternative strategies for supplementing Angoni cattle, native to Tete Province, grazing low-quality rangeland during the dry season are discussed. Treatments were (1) control (rangeland alone); (2) rangeland + hay harvested at 25% flowering stage offered in kraal; (3) Gliricidia sepium (GS; 200 g animal-1) +2 kg of rangeland hay animal-1; (4) Amoreira alba (AA; 200 g animal-1) +2 kg of rangeland hay animal-1; (4)  Leucaena pallyda (LP; 200 g animal-1) +2 kg of rangeland hay animal-1; and (5) ad libitum mineral block alone with the following composition: 29% salt; 13% sugar, 13% maize bran, 45% industrial cement.

Results showed that animals fed on rangeland alone had an average daily gain (ADG) of 92.6 g, compared to 204 g when supplemented with 2 kg of hay during the night, 206 g for animals supplemented with ad libitum mineral block, 280g, 300 g and 400 g respectively with AA, GS and LP. It was concluded that supplementary feeding contributed (P=0.0001) to weight gain of Angoni cattle during the dry season.

Keywords: average daily gain, rangeland, ruminants, supplementation


Raising cattle in extensive, traditional communal rangeland is the most important form of livestock activity in Mozambique, where more than 75% of the national herd belongs to smallholders. Livestock farmers in neighboring countries cope with the low herbage quality and quantity during the dry season by improving management of  grasslands, such as the over-seeding of legumes and grasses into the natural pastures and the extensive use of conserved forages as well as the use of crop residues (Chakoma et al 1999; Els et al 1999). In Mozambique, however, livestock production is based on natural and communal rangeland, with little supplementary feeding, apart from grazing crop residues after the harvest season (Timberlake 1985; Uaila 1999).


According to Gammon (1999), one of the most important limitations to beef production in southern Africa is poor performance of cattle on the veld in the dry season. Considerable weight loss occurs, frequently with high levels of mortality. This results in reduced fertility, delay in reaching market weights, increased finishing costs in commercial beef farms and overall reductions in off-take. This is of particular importance in sour and mixed veld areas (Gammon, 1999), but in recent years it has also been reported for most of the livestock production areas in Mozambique, due to prolonged droughts. These production constraints led to efforts to overcome drought and dry season nutrient deficiencies by substituting grazing with conserved roughages of better nutritional value. This approach, however, is expensive and, in drier areas, unreliable. Furthermore, it is beyond the financial and technical capacity of most smallholder farmers.


Murray et al (1936) reported that protein was the primary limiting nutrient in dry season grazing. A supplement of 450 to 680 g of groundnut cake, by reducing dry season weight losses, shortened time taken to reach slaughter weight off veld (rangeland) by 14 months. The same authors also found no response to supplementation with salt (28 g day-1 animal-1). However, Grant (1979)  reported that, while salt alone had limited or no beneficial effect, the addition of 10% salt to various vegetable protein supplements enhanced ADG response by more than 20%.  The effects of the low nutrient content of dry season grass are aggravated by low feed intake by cattle, about 1.5 % of body weight. This is likely due to the low palatability, slow digestion by protein-deficient rumen microorganisms, and consequent slow passage rates.


Supplementing protein to ruminants has proven efficacious in increasing passage rates of fibrous grasses in ruminants (McMeniman et al 1988; Osuji and Odenyo 1997). The use of protein-rich leguminous trees, shrubs and the use protein-containing mineral blocks appears to be one sustainable solution for dry season ruminant supplementation in the tropics.  Muir and Massaete (1996), Nguluve and Muir (1999), and Seijas et al (1994) showed that multipurpose legume trees as a source of low-cost protein in the diets of goats, sheep and cattle resulted in body condition maintenance and substantial increase in ADG. Goats, sheep and cattle supplemented on grass-Leucaena leucocephala mixed pastures and diets including GS increased ADG by 27.8, 48.8 and 44.8%, respectively, as compared to control treatments. Furthermore, intake of low-palatability roughages increases dry matter (DM) intake by 46.3% and ADG by 11.0% in ruminants when cattle are fed maize residues and supplemented with mineral blocks including salt (Faftine 2001).  The same experiment indicates that mineral block has indirect effects, including increasing energy intake through increased appetite.


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of supplementation using locally available feeding alternatives, on ADG of Angoni steers during the late dry season in Tete Province, Mozambique.

Materials and Methods

The experiment was conducted at the Angonia Research Station located in Vila Ulongue, Angonia district, where Tete Province of Mozambique borders Malawi to the north. It is about 14o 44’ latitude south and 34o 22'' east longitude, and 1300 m altitude. According to Cardigos (1973) the average temperature and relative humidity are 19 - 21oC and 62.5%, respectively and the annual rainfall varies from 1000 to 1100 mm (falling primarily from November to March-April). The climate has been described as humid tropical, which is influenced by altitude. The most common native rangeland species associations are Hyparrhenia hirta, Cymbopogon spp, Setaria sphacelata, Eragrostis curvula, Panicum gigantum, Urochloa mosambicensis, and Chloris gayana. The dominant grass, Hyparrhenya spp., is considered to be productive but only palatable until early reproductive stages, after which it has little feeding value (Timberlake 1985) and nearly inedible as a standing hay or foggage (Skerman and Riveros 1990).  


Thirty Angoni steers, 12-18 months old, averaging 100-120 kg of BW were randomly assigned in five groups (treatments): (1) control (rangeland alone); (2) rangeland + hay harvested at 25% flowering stage offered in kraal; (3) Gliricidia sepium (GS; 200 g animal-1) +2 kg of rangeland hay animal-1; (4) Amoreira alba AA; 200 g animal-1) +2 kg of rangeland hay animal-1; (4)  Leucaena pallyda (LP; 200 g animal-1) +2 kg of rangeland hay animal-1; and (5) ad libitum mineral block alone with the following composition: 29% salt; 13% sugar, 13% maize bran, 45% industrial cement. The animals on rangeland were herded by a pastor on communal pastures (historical 2.6 ha/AU; Timberlake and Reddy, 1986) and the herbage (see species above) were mature dry season plants available in sufficient quantity (historically in excess of 1.7 Mg/ha; Timberlake and Ready, 1986) to allow selectivity by cattle. 


The diets were administrated every evening after animals returned from grazing on rangeland paddocks within the station. The leftovers from feed sources were weighed in the morning, to estimate the actual consumption. All animals were dewormed with Albendazol (1 ml 10 kg-1 BW) and were dipped on a weekly base to control tick infestation. Drinking water was available daily, except 12 h (fasting) before weighing days. Animals were allowed to graze on unimproved rangeland daily from 07.30 a.m. to 16.00 p.m. The adaptation period was one week, since animals accepted the diets from the beginning. Samples of feed sources (Table 1) were evaluated using Van Soest and Robertson (1980) procedures for fiber and Gallaher et al (1975) for crude protein. The experiment was initiated in July, when forage became scarce and was finished in November, when the first rains arrived.  Individual animals were considered replicates and differences among treatments were determined (P<0.05) by analysis of variance.

Table 1. Average dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), crude fiber (CF), and ash concentration of supplemental feed sources used in the experimental diets

Feed Sources

DM, %

  CP, %

CF, %

Ash, %

Rangeland Hay





Amoreira alba





Gliricidia sepium





Leucaena pallyda





Results and Discussion

The CP concentration of rangeland hay, collected in late dry season, was below the 7% needed for animal maintenance (Ball et al 2007) so the standing hay available to cattle during the late dry season was likely even lower. Differences among all treatments were significant (P=0.0001) (Figure 1). All supplements had a positive effect on ADG compared to the control group. Although weight loss was expected for animals grazing only mature rangeland grass during the dry season, particularly in the last four months, this did not occur. The Angoni steers (Figure 2) may have been selective in their consumption, as reported elsewhere for cattle grazing rangelands with abundant herbage (Chacon and Stobbs 1976) or in their ingestion of more nutritious forbs and browse in semiarid rangeland (Keya 1998; Ikhimioya et al 2007).

Figure 1. Average daily gain using different diets: control (CTR); Hay; Appetizer (AP); Gliricidia sepium (GS); Amoreira alba (AA), and Leucaena pallyda (LP)

Figure 2. Angoni cattle from the Tete Province highlands of Mozambique

Control animal ADG was 92.6 g. The nightly supplementation of 2 kg of rangeland hay animal-1 day-1 resulted in ADG of 206 g animal-1, a 122% increase (P< 0.01) over control animals. Leftover hay averaged 50%, consisting almost exclusively of stems, showing the high capacity of Angoni cattle for forage selection, even in a confined feeding system. The average daily intake of hay was 1 kg animal-1.  Turner et al (2002) reported that hay cured at 25% flowering loses 20% of its nutritive value to cattle through microbial activity. Our results, however, showed that feeding rangeland hay harvested at peak quality and quantity in amounts that allow selection by animals can benefit growing steers in the dry season because of high palatability and low fiber concentration.


Animals with free access to the mineral block had an ADG of 205.5 g and a mean animal daily consumption of the solid licking block of 30 g. This is an ADG increase of 122% compared to unsupplemented steers. The addition of maize bran and sugar may have increased energy levels. McDowell et al (1983) also found that mineral block made primarily of sodium-chloride (salt) may have additional effects on cattle by increasing appetite and this improving forage intake of ruminants during dry seasons where only unpalatable rangeland foggage is available.


The mean daily DM forage (hay + legume) intake was 1200 g animal-1 for the AA, GS, and LP treatments. Steers had an ADG of 300 g when supplemented with AA, 340 g when supplemented with GS, and 400 when supplemented with LP. Leucaena pallyda increased ADG 432% compared to the control treatment. Results indicated that both mineral block and shrub leaf supplementation can increase ADG of growing Angoni steers. Seijas et al (1994), in a supplementation trial with GS, concluded that the main effect of the legumes seems to be through an increase in the protein concentration which in turn improves total intake of ruminant diets. Pamo et al (2005), using Calliandra calothysrus to supplement dwarf goats in the dry season, found similar results.  These legumes likely provided digestible protein in the rumen that stimulated rumen microflora activity, thereby increasing rangeland forage cell wall breakdown and consequently speeding passage rates (Osuji and Odenyo 1997).



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Received 24 February 2011; Accepted 15 March 2011; Published 19 June 2011

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