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Moringa oleifera leaf meal and molasses as additives in grain sorghum based diets for layer chickens

J T Kaijage, S K Mutayoba1 and A Katule1

Department of Animal Production and Marketing Infrastructures, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development, P.O. Box 9152,Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania
1 Department of Animal Science and Production, Sokoine University of Agriculture, P.O. Box Morogoro, Tanzania.


The effects on egg production of supplementing Moringa oleifera leaf meal and molasses to grain sorghum based diets for commercial layer chickens was studied in a 2x3 factorial design for ten weeks. The study used high (HT) and low (LT) tannin varieties of sorghum and three supplement strategies of: none, molasses (Mo) or Moringa leaf meal (ML).

Egg weight was not influenced by tannin level. Daily feed intake was higher, feed conversion poorer and egg laying percentage and egg mass production lower in HT than in LT diets. Supplementation with molasses depressed, while supplementation with Moringa leaf meal improved, egg production. Final sugar cane molasses is not recommended as additive to sorghum based diets as it may depress egg production and impair feed conversion. Moringa oleifera leaf meal appears to improve egg production on sorghum based diets and may reduce the expense of using costly synthetic amino acids. Its utilization as an additive in sorghum-based diets is highly recommended.

Key words: agroforestry, egg production, tannin, Tanzania


Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) is well adapted to arid and semi-arid regions and could be used as an alternative to maize due to its high energy content and its chemical composition is similar to maize, except for the deficiency in lysine, methionine, and threonine (USDA 2009 and Mutayoba et al 2011). Sorghum ranks the fifth as the most produced crop worldwide (NRC 1996). The use of sorghum in poultry diets is limited probably due to the presence of tannin in some of the varieties (Dykes and Rooney 2006; Medugu et al 2010). The Proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins) consisting of oligomers and polymers of flavan-3-ol units are the most widely distributed type of tannins in plants (Waterman and Mole 1994). In rare cases,Proanthocyanidins comprising 3-deoxy subunits also exist particularly in sorghum and maize. Studies have shown that the presence of these compounds at more than 1% in the diet could depress egg production performance in layers (Potter et al 1967; Armstrong et al 1973). In addition excessive tannin consumption can lead to a reduction in feed intake, egg weight, laying rate and poor feed conversion ratio (Sell and Featherston 1983; Kyarisiima 2004). Tannin is thought to impair digestion and absorption of nutrients (Lasheras et al 1980a, b), alter nutrient partitioning and tissue composition (Cherian et al 2002; Du et al 2002), and cause cell degeneration in the liver and kidneys (Harvey and McAllan 1992).

Various studies to improve nutritional quality and utilization of high-tannin grain sorghum using physical and chemical treatment (Mitaru et al 1983 and Elkin et al 1990) and dietary nutrient enrichment (Nyachoti et al., 1997 and Kumarl et al 2005) have been carried out. Furthermore, attempts to increase dietary protein and energy levels using common ingredients in high tannin grain sorghum based diets have also been done (Sell et al 1983; Pour-Reza and Edriss 1997). Both nutritional strategies were found to improve partially performance in laying birds. It is anticipated that the use of Moringa oleifera leaf meal and molasses that are readily available and cheap in tropical countries could alleviate the negative effects of tannins on egg production performance since they contain essential nutrients with negligible anti-nutritional factors (Alikwe and Omotosho 2003; Aye and Adegun 2003). However, there is limited information on the effect of using Moringa leaf meal and molasses in high tannin grain sorghum based diets on egg production. Thus, the objective of this study was to find out if supplementation of Moringa oleifera leaf meal or molasses to high tannin grain sorghum based diets could alleviate the undesirable effects of tannins and improve laying performance.

Materials and methods

Feed ingredients and experimental diets

The study was conducted at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) at the Poultry Unit in the Department of Animal Science and Production (DASP) in Morogoro, Tanzania. Moringa oleifera leaves were harvested within SUA compound, air dried under a shed to maintain their greenish colour, ground with hammer mill to produce Moringa leaf mal (ML). Grain sorghum varieties were collected from the local markets, ground with hammer mill to pass through a 2mm sieve. Molasses was obtained from Mtibwa sugar processing company. The methods of Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC 1990) were used to determine proximate composition, minerals and ash of the feed ingredients and experimental diets. Metabolizable Energy (ME/ kcal/kg) content of feed ingredients and experimental diets were estimated by prediction equations expressed by NRC (1994). MOLM, ME/Kgcal/kg was estimated by prediction equation established by Carpenter and Clegg (1956). Condensed tannins in GSV and MOLM were determined using butanol/HCL method as described by Nitao et al (2001). All ME n values were converted into MJ/kg DM. All diets were formulated to meet or exceed the nutrient requirements recommended by NRC (1994) (Table 1) for layer chickens. The inclusion of the sorghum was fixed at 55% of the DM.

Experimental design and dietary treatments

Six dietary treatments (Table 1) were arranged in a 2 x 3 factorial design.

The factors were:

Tannin: Low (LT) or high (HT)

Supplement (SPS): None (CTL), molasses (Mo) or Moringa leaf meal (ML)

Experimental procedure

Two hundred and seventy (270) commercial Bovan brown hybrid layer chickens at 20th week of age were randomly allocated to the dietary treatments. Each dietary treatment had 45 birds subdivided into three replicates of 15 birds each. The birds were housed in deep litter pens. The birds were provided with the experimental diets from the 20th to 30th week of age. Prior to the commencement of the experiment, each bird was weighed individually to obtain the initial body weight and at the end of experimental period to get final weight. Birds were group fed in each replicate. The experimental diets supplied to the birds were weighed daily and were given to the birds every morning at 8.00A.M. The amount of feed offered daily was approximately 20 percent above the expected intake. The remaining feed (residue) was also weighed daily before supplying fresh feed. Feed intake per bird was calculated by subtracting the leftovers from feed and was divided by the number of birds. Eggs were collected and recorded on a daily basis. Eggs were weighed daily using sensitive digital weighing scale. Daily laying percentage was calculated as the number of eggs produced over a period of time by dividing the number birds x 100. Average egg weight was calculated as total egg weight by dividing the number of recorded eggs. Daily egg mass was calculated as average egg weight multiplying by daily laying percentage. The daily feed intake (g) over daily egg mass (g) was used to calculate the feed conversion ratio (FCR).

Data analysis

All data collected on egg production performance parameters for GVS and SPS was analyzed in accordance with the 2x3 factorial designs of two GSV in combination with three SPS using General Linear Model procedure of SAS software version 9.1 for windows (2007). Values were considered significant at (P ≤ 0.05). The Least Square Difference was used to compare means of each variable. The analytical model for studied parameters were as follows: Yijk = μ + Vi + Sj+ (VS)ij+ eijk


Yijk = Observation of kth bird assigned to ith GSV subjected to jth SPS;

μ = overall mean to all observations;

Vi= effect of tannin (HTS or LTS);

SPS= the effect of supplement: CTL (no supplement), Mo (molasses) or ML (Moringa leaf meal)

(VS)ik= the interaction between GSV and SPS;

eijk = random error



Effect of tannin

The egg weight (EWT) values did not differ between HT and LT diets (Table 2). The laying percentage (DLP) and egg mass production (EMP) were lower by 32.2 and 27.9% respectively in HT compared to LT dietary groups. The daily feed intake (DFI)) was higher by 7.2% and the feed conversion poorer by 59% in HT compared to LT dietary groups.

Effect of supplement

The DLP value decreased with molasses by 21.1% but increased with Moringa by 8.7% (Table 3). Similarly, the EMP value was decreased by molasses by 19.9% but was increased by MOL by 7.24%. The DFI increased by 2.63% with molasses but did not change with Moringa, compared to the control. The FCR value did not differ among supplements. There was an interaction between tannin diets and supplements (Table 4). Molasses had a negative effect on feed conversion when it was added to the low tannin diets but had no effect in the high tannin diets.

Table 2: Egg production, feed intake and feed conversion ratio of bovan hybrid layers fed high and low tannin grain sorghum varieties (20-30 weeks of age)

Grain sorghum variety based diets





Daily laying percentage, %

31.2 b




Average egg weight, g





Daily egg mass production, g/bird





Daily feed intake, g/bird

119.0 a




Feed conversion, g feed/g egg mass





abMeans in the same row without common superscripts are different at P = 0.05; SEM = Standard error of difference

Table 3: Mean values for egg production, feed intake and feed conversion of commercial bovan hybrid layers fed Moringa leaf meal and molasses supplemented grain sorghum based diets (20-30 weeks of age)







Laying percentage, %






Egg weight, g






Egg mass, g/bird/day

22.1 b

17.7 c

23.7 a



Feed intake, g/day


117 a

114 b



Feed conversion, g feed/g egg mass






abMeans in the same row without common superscripts are different at P = 0.05

Table 4: Interaction of tannin levels in grain sorghum variety and type of supplementary strategy on feed conversion











Feed conversion 









abcMeans in the same row with different superscripts are different (P0.05);


The lower DLP in HT compared to LTdietary groups concurs with other research reports (Faquinello et al 2004; Kyarisiima 2004). These findings were attributed to the negative effects of tannins on utilization and digestibility of nutrients such as protein and amino acids responsible for egg formation (Hassan et al 2003; Ravindran et al 2006). These results support previous studies that tannin levels between 1.5% and 3% may depress egg production (Ali and Mahmood 2003). According to Potter and Fuller (1968), HT based diets have a depressive effect on DLP and its use should be accompanied with supplementation of proteins and amino acids particularly methionine and choline which donate a methyl group that combines with tannins and render them ineffective.

The influence of tannin level on feed intake in layers is inconsistent in the literature. The higher value in HT compared to LT dietary group agrees with other research reports (Nyakoti and Atkinson 1995; Nyakoti et al 1997). These findings are associated with the compensatory mechanism of birds to increase intake due to the lower energy concentration of the high tannin diet (Cherian et al 2002; Du et al 2002). Therefore, these results suggest the use of HT sorghum in layer diets is not economical and should be accompanied with supplementation with more readily available energy sources. However, these results disagree with other researchers who reported a decrease in feed intake in HT diets (Attia 1998; Ali and Mahmood 2003).

The influence of tannin on egg weight is variable. Malik and Queensberry (1963) and Armanious et al (1973) reported a decrease in egg weight when maize replaced sorghum in laying hen diets. However, our findings suggest that tannins up to 2.6% DM in the diet have no detrimental effect on egg weight. These findings are consistent with other research reports (Ambulla et al 2003; Imik 2009; Kwari et al 2011).

The lower egg mass values noted in HT compared to LT dietary groups compares well with other research reports (Armonious et al 1973; Faquinello et al 2004; Kyarisiima 2004). These results suggest that tannins have a detrimental effect on egg mass and could be uneconomical particularly where eggs are graded.

The poorer feed conversion values noted in HT compared to LT dietary groups may be attributed to the higher feed intake and lower egg mass, due to negative effect of tannins.

The decrease of egg laying percentage in diets supplemented with molasses may be attributed tothe low metabolizable energy and almost complete absence of amino acids reported in final sugar cane molasses (Ly 1979, 1990). However, these results are inconsistent with previous research reports (Damron et al 1980; Rahman et al 1991; Valdivie 2003) which may be due to differences in type of molasses and the basal diet used (Ly 1990). The increasein egg laying percentage due to Moringa leaf meal was probably due to the effects of the higher protein availability in Moringa (Sikka and Johari 1979; Makker and Becker 1997). These finding suggest utilization of moringa leaf meal as additive in sorghum based diets for layer chickens can improve laying rate and minimize the need for supplementary synthetic amino acids. However, there are also conflicting reports on the effect of Moringa leaf meal on egg production (Abou-Elezz et al 2011).



The authors would like to knowledge the Tanzanian Government through the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries for financial support for this research project.


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Received 26 October 2014; Accepted 29 January 2015; Published 4 February 2015

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