Livestock Research for Rural Development 27 (7) 2015 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

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Effects of cassava (Manihot utilissima. Pohl) and moringa (Moringa oliefera. Lam) leaves on nitrogen utilization and growth of sheep on maize (Zea mays) stover based diet

Mulyati1,2, Kusmartono1, Hartutik1 and Rusdi2

1 Postgraduate Program, Faculty of Animal Husbandry, Brawijaya University, Malang 65145, Indonesia
2 Faculty of Animal Husbandry and Fishery, Tadulako University, Jl. Soekarno-Hatta,Palu 9411, Indonesia


A research has been conducted to evaluate effects of protein supplement of cassava and moringa leaves and concentrate on intake,digestibility, nitrogen retention, live weight gain  and rumen liquor characteristics of sheep fed maize stover based diet. Twenty fat tailed male sheep of approximately 1 year old and  a weight range of 16-23 kg were arranged in a Randomized Block Design based on the animal’s initial body weight. Experimental sheep were subjected to the following treatments : MS: maize stover only MSCF: maize stover (85%) + dried cassava leaves (15%);  MSMF: maize stover (85%) + dried moringa leaves (15%);  MSCC: maize stover (80%) + concentrate A (20%) and MSMC: maize stover (80%) + concentrate B (20%). Parametres were  feed intake, nutrients digestibility, nitrogen retention, body weight gain, feed conversion and rumen liquor characteristics Clean water was freely available. Intake was recorded daily, and live weight was recorded weekly. Digestibility  evaluation was carried out at the last 10 days of experimental period. Data analyzed using the General Linear Model (GLM) procedures of statistical packages.


The results from experiment suggest that inclusion of feed supplement in the diet significantly enhanced intake, digestibility, live weight gain, feed conversion and nitrogen retention and it had no effect on rumen liquor characteristics of sheep fed maize stover based diet.  It can be concluded that cassava leaves and moringa leaves and cassava/moringa concentrate are good quality protein supplement to  support low quality roughages in animal production system.   Moringa leaves either as single or as concentrate mixture was however the most potential protein supplement.

Keywords: concentrate, intake, retention, supplementation, weight gain


Roughages including straws, stoves, husks and other crop by-products is a mayor part of animal diet in many developing conutries, including Indonesia. High cost of concentrate and other milled feeds are forcing farmers to rely on poor quality feed and crop by-products as source of feed.   In fact that animal performance is limited by poor intake, low nitrogen content and poor digestibility (Peterson et al 1981). Poor quality feed, therefore, requires an appropriate supplementation as they cannot sustain an effective animal production or even maintenance when they are fed alone.  Leaves or part of  the plants such as  moringa (Moringa oleifera), gliciridia  (Gliricidia sepium), samanea (Samanea saman) and leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) have been used traditionally as part of ruminant diets in areas where they are available.  They have been shown  to improve ruminal microorganisms growth and livestock productivities (Sanchez et al 2006; Paengkoum 2010; Mendieta-Araica et al 2011; Marhaeniyanto et al 2013).


A plethora research has been done through feed supplementation to improve biological value of poor quality crop by-products such as maize stover in animal production system. One way of doing this via a strategic supplementation and urea and legume supplementation consistently improved intake and digestibility on cattle given maize stover based diet (Bengaly 1996). Tolera and Sundstol (2000a)  reported that desmodium supplementation improved intake, nutrient digestibility and daily gain of lamb given maize stover based diet. Others crops have also been used as supplement in ruminants diets, including cassava leaves and moringa leaves. Cassava leaves induced  weight gain on sheep fed jackfruit by-product based diet (Kusmartono 2010) and maize stover based diet (Ndaru et al 20014). Similarly, moringa leaves significantly increased  intake, nitrogen retention and daily gain on sheep given rhodes grass hay based diet (Gebregiorgis et al 2012; Marhaeniyanto et al 2013).  Previous study of Murro et al (2003) reported that moringa leaves meal could be used up to 20%  in the diet of growing sheep to substitute cotton seed meal.  


Previous works on cassava leaves or moringa leaves have been done in which this feed is used as single feed supplement.  However,  there is a lack of information regarding using cassava leaves or moringa leaves mixture with others ingredient as a concentrate supplement on maize stover based diet.  The objectives of this study were therefore to evaluate effects of the inclusion of cassava leaves or moringa leaves as supplement alone or mixture with other ingredients as concentrate on intake, nutrient digestibility, rumen liquor parameters and growth performance of  fat-tailed male sheep fed maize stover based diet.

Materials and Methods

A series of experiment was carried out at the Research Farm of Faculty of Animal Husbandry Brawijaya University, Indonesia between July and October 2013. Twenty fat tailed male sheep of approximately 1 year old and  a weight range of 16-23 kg were arranged in a Randomized Block Design based on the animal’s initial body weight.  They were assigned to receive one of the following 5 treatments diets: MS: maize stover onlyMSCF: maize stover (85%) + dried cassava leaves (15%);  MSMF: maize stover (85%) + dried moringa leaves (15%);  MSCC: maize stover (80%) + concentrate A (20%) and MSMC: maize stover (80%) + concentrate B (20%). Maize stover was chopped into the length of 2-3 cm.  Concentrate A consisted of  cassava leaves meal, rice bran, coconut cake and  minerals; while concentrate B consisted of moringa leaves meal, rice bran, coconut cake and  minerals.  Each of the treatments was replicated 4 times.


The sheep were kept in individual stage pen with wooden slat floor allowing for faeces and urine collection and each of the pens was equipped with feed and drinking troughs. Clean water was freely available all the time. The sheep were allowed 14 days for adaptation period and followed by 56  days for data collection.  Feed offered and refusal were daily recorded to estimate intake.  Body weight  were measured weekly in the morning before offering the feed. At the end of the growth experiment, faeces and urine were collected for 10 consecutive days. Total daily faeces was recorded, and 10% daily faeces production was taken and bulked in freezer for later analysis. Urine production for individual sheep was collected in botlles containing 100 mL of 10% HCl.  Ten percent of urine sample was taken and stored  in freezer for later analysis.  Rumen fluid was taken by aspiration with orally inserted stomach tubes at 0, 3 and 6 h after the morning feeding and were pooled, for which sampling time as replicate. A 100 mL of  rumen fluid sample was analyzed  immediately for pH and acidified with concentrated sulfate acid, centrifuged for 30 min and frozen for subsequent analysis. 


Chemical analysis for feed, urine and faeces samples was done according to AOAC (1990). The neutral detergent fibre (NDF), acid detrgent fibre (ADF), hemicelluloce, cellulose, silica and lignin content  were also analysed (Van Soest et al 1991).  Volatile fatty acid (VFA) composition of the ruminal liquor was analysed using a gas chromatography (Wilson, 1986). Ammonia (NH3) of rumen liquor analysis was used method  of  Chaney and Marbach (1962) using spectrofotometric.


Data on measurement parameters were analyzed using the General Linear Model (GLM) procedures of the Statistical Analysis Package using Minitab 12.  Initial weight was used as a covariate in the analysis of  feed intake and body weight change. Duncan’s Multiple Range Test was employed to test significant differences among treatment means (Steel and Torrie 1991).

Results and discussion

Chemical composition


The chemical compositions of maize stover, cassava leaves, moringa leaves, concentrate A and concentrate B used in the experiment are presented in Table 1.  There was a mark difference in dry matter (DM) and crude protein (CP) content of feed supplements compared to maize stover,  in which DM and CP content in the feed supplements were higher than in the  maize stover.  In contrast, fibre fractions  (NDF, ADF, hemicelluloses, cellulose and lignin) content in the feed supplements  were lower than in the maize stover.  The nitrogen content of maize stover in current study is comparable to that reported by Ndaru et al (2014), but it is much higher than those reported by Tolera and Sundstol (2000a).  Furthermore, the maize stover was characterized  by low content of CP and high content of fibre fractions  (NDF, ADF, hemicelluloses and cellulose), which is a typical feature of low quality crop by-product (Tolera and Sundstol 2000a).  The fibre fractions contents  have negative correlation on feed digestibility and intake.


Table 1. Chemical composition of  maize stover, cassava leaves, moringa leaves, concentrate A and concentrate B (based on dry matter, except for DM which is on fresh basis) used in the experiment

Components (%)

Maize stover

Cassava leaves

Moringa leaves

Concentrate A

Concenrate B

Dry matter












Crude protein





































In the current study,  CP content of cassava leaves was 23.3%, which is similar to 23.40% reported by Sath et al (2008) or 22.2% by Ndaru et al (2014).  Previous works have demonstrated the positive effect of cassava leaves on ruminant performances (Wanapat 2000; Khang et al 2005; Sath et al 2008), either as a sole supplement or as a protein source in conectrate mix (Wanapat 2000; Hong et al 2003).  On a straw based diet, Sath et al (2008) showed that cattle grew in a linear fashion to the cassava supplementation levels.  Cassava leaves was also shown to improve feed intake, digestibility and live weight gain of sheep fed maize stover based diet (Ndaru et al 2014).


The CP content of moringa leaves used in current study (23.7%) was higher than those reported by Sanchez et al (2006; 17.3%) and Soliva et al (2005; 17.8%).   However, its NDF and ADF contents were also higher than those found by Gebregiorgis et al ( 2012).  These variations may be attributed to differences in many factors such as plant age, soil conditions, agroecology, sampling procedures and chemical analysis applied.  Nevertheless, many studies have reported improved intake and /or digestibility due to moringa supplementation (Soliva et al 2005; Sanchez et al 2006;  Marhaeniyanto et al 2013).


As mentiod above that concentrate A and concentrate B are mixture of cassava or moringa leaves with rice bran, coconut cake and  minerals.  In fact that,  concentrate A and concentrate B would be provide more nutrients compared with cassava or moringa leaves alone, eventhough their chemical composition (Table 1) are comparable for all protein supplements.  Feed supplement however response on animal production system depends on the quality of basal diet and feed supplement per se. Getachew et al (1994), for instance,  compared three type of legumes (Desmodium intortum, Macrotyloma axillare and Stylosanthes guianensis) as supplements again to maize stover. Stylosanthes guianensis had the highest nitrogen content, promoted the greatest intake of maize stover.  Similarly, the previous study of  Smith et al (1989) found that legume has the highest nitrogen content, produces the greatest intake of maize stover. While, Tolera and Sundstol (2000a) compared three stages maturity of maize stover, and they found that the total DM and OM intake decrease as increasing stage of maturity of the stover.  Furhermore, total DM, OM and CP intake increased whereas maize stover DM intake decreased as increasing level of supplementation. Marhaeniyanto et al (2013) found a reduction in intake when moringa leaves are included in the concentrate with 14% of CP on maize stover based diet.  But, moringa leaves tends to increase intake when it is included in the concenrate with 18% of CP.


Intake, digestibility and weight gain


Feed intakes (3.34 to 3.89% body weight) were within the normal ranges, but supplementation to the basal diet of maize stover significantly increased the feed intakes (Table 2),  These are similar to previous works (Bengaly 1996; Tolera and Sundstol 2000a) who also found improvements in feed intake due to protein supplementation to animals given maize stover as basal diet.  These studies indicate that feed intake is not optimum when animals are only fed on a basal deit such as maize stover and this may also limit animal production as shown in the current study.  Animal body weight gains were significantly higher in the supplemented animals than those offered the maize stover alone.  However, improved body weight as a result of supplementation could not be attributed to increase availability of nutrients as feed digestibilities were lower when animals given the protein supplements.  It was probably related more to the nutrients absorbed and available for tissue metabolism in supplemented animals being more balanced and thus utilised more efficiently as this was indicated by better feed conversion values compared to those receiving maize stover only.


Table 2. Feed intake, digestibility, weight gain and feed conversion of sheep fed basal diet of maize stover without or with supplementation of cassava leaves, moringa leaves, concentrate A or concentrate B










Intake (% BW)








Intake (g/kgW0.75/day)








  Dry matter








  Organic matter








  Crude protein








Digestibility (%)








  Dry matter








  Organic matter








  Crude protein








Weight gain (g/head/day)








Feed conversion








a,b,c Means in the same row sharing different letter are  different at P<0.05


There was a significant (P<0.05) effect of protein supplementation on digestibility. But, it was unexpected results, where the diet without protein supplementation produced the highest value of digestbility (DM and OM).  This discrepancy can be explained that low intake in the diet without protein supplementation (MS) resulted in lower passage rate. This causes more time for ruminal microrganism to penetrate and to digest ingested feed and it therefore improves digestibility of DM and OM.  Meanwile, the CP digestibility of moringa leaves (MSMF) was higher than the other diet with protein supplementation, but it was statistically similar to the diet without protein supplementation (MS). 


Protein supplementation significantly (P<0.05) improved live weight gain, where diet supplemented with concentrate B produced the highest value of 122 g/head/day. In contrast, the diet maize stover only (MS) produced the lowest value of live weight gain 38.5 g/head/day.  Live weight gain of sheep given protein supplementation on maize stover based diet, in the current study, was higher than those reported by Soetanto et al (2011) and  Marhaeniyanto et al (2013).  The live weight gain were 107.54 and 87.7 g/head/day for  results from Soetanto et al (2011) and Marhaeniyanto et al (2013), respectively.  The highest live weight gain on the diet supplemented with concentrate B can be explained that concentrate B induces high intake concomitant with high in nutrients digestibility as well as N retention (Table 3), and therefore more nutrients are available for tissue deposition of live weight gain.  This indicates that concentrate B is providing well balanced nutrition and resulted in absorption of ingested nutritions efficiently.      


Feed intake is important in defining feed conversion efficiency.  Efficient feed conversion, will be achieved only if the animal is able to obtain from the feed a subtantial margin of nutrients over maintenance requirement.  In many cases, maximum intake may not be sufficient to ensure maximum production. From this regard, current study revealed that supplementation sigificantly enhances intake and growth rate, resulting a significant (P<0.05) improvement in feed conversion efficiency.  The lowest value of feed conversion (19.3) was achieved on the diet maize stover only, while the highest value (7.57) was on the diet supplemented with concentrate B.   Marhaeniyanto et al (2013) reported feed conversion ranged from 6.28 to 9.00 on sheep given protein supplement with maize stover based diet. The different in feed conversion is due to different in physiological status of experimental animal and experimental diet. Marhaeniyanto et al (2013) used  younger and lighter experimental sheep than experimental sheep in present study.  In general, younger and lighter animal to some extent are converting feed to gain very efficiently.


Nitrogen utilization


Effect of various protein supplements on nitrogen balance of sheep fed maize stover as basal diet is given in Table 3.  Protein supplements resulted in increase (P<0.05) N intake, for which moringa leaves diet (MSMF and MSMC) were elevating (P<0.05) more intake than other diets type. Interestingly, nitrogen retention of current study was positive across the treatments and it tended to increase when nitrogen intake increase. In contrast, Tolera and Sundstol (2000b) found a negative nitrogen balance when maize stovers were fed without supplementation.  This is due to the low nitrogen (CP) content of maize stover of Tolera and Sundstol (2000b) study compared to the current study (CP: 3.3% vs 10.6%).  Protein supplementation significantly improved nitrogen excretion in the faeces and no effect (P>0.05) on nitrogen excretion through urine. The significant increase in faecal N agrees with prvious works of  Tolera and Sundstol (2000b) and Gebregiorgis  et al (2012). This is simply because of an increase in N intake.  When excretion was expressed as % of N intake, more N was excreted in the faeces than urine for both cassava and moringa leaves diet. This  suggests that small proportion of N excreted in the urine and faecal excretion was the main route of N loss.  The present study also revealed that diets from cassava leaves (MSCF and MSCC) excreted more N in both faeces and urine (40.32 and 18.85%) compared to N excretion in faeces and urine (37.86 and 15.7%) in the diets from moringa leaves (MSMF and MSMC). In fact that protein supplementation resulted in significant (P<0.05) different in N retention, where diets containing moringa leaves (MSMF and MSMC) had higher values (9.99 and 9.76 g/head/day) than those in cassava leaves (8.61 and 7.47 g/head/day) or maize as a sole diet (6.30 g/head/day).


Table 3.  Nitrogen (N) balance of sheep fed basal diet of maize stover without or with supplementation of cassava leaves, moringa leaves, concentrate A or concentrate B











N intake (g/head/day)








N excretion (g/head/day)
























N retained (g/head/day)








N retained (%)








Aa,Bb,c Means in the same row sharing different letter are different at P<0.01 (capital letter) and P<0.05 (small letter)


Nitrogen rentention is generated from level of intake, rate of digestibility and absorption.  It appears that there was a relatively higher contribution of intake, digestibility and excretion on N retention.  Sheep in cassava diets produced more N in faeces and urine than sheep in moringa diets.  This could be explained that cassava diet is relatively lower in digestibility due to existence of tannin as reported by Ndaru et al (2014)Previous studies of Woodward and Reed (1997) and  Kaitho et al (1998) also found a significant decrease in urinary N and an increase in faecal N with increase in tannin content of browse and forage legume supplement on sheep fed tef straw based diet.  On the other hand, high N utilization on moringa leaves (MSMF and MSMC) supplemented to maize stover based diet was a reflection of both higher intake and more efficient utilization of N.  This finding strongly confirmed the previous studies that moringa leaves is a good supplement to support optimal rumen microbial growth and activity on poor quality forage based diet. Furthermore, moringa leaves could be supplemented in the basal diet as mixture with other ingredients or as a sole ingredient.


Rumen liquor characteristics


The means value of pH, VFA and NH3 of sheep fed basal diet of maize stover without or with supplementation of cassava leaves, moringa leaves, concentrate A or concentrate B are presented in Table 4.  Protein supplementation had  no effect (P>0.05) on any rumen liquor characteristics. The values of pH ranged from  6.98 to 7.01, which are within the normal values for optimal growth of ruminal microorganism (Orskov and Ryle 1990).


Table 4. Means value of pH, VFA and ammonia of sheep fed basal diet of maize stover without or with supplementation of cassava leaves, moringa leaves, concentrate A or concentrate B


















VFA total (mM/l)








Acetate (mM/l)








Propionate (mM/l)








Butyrate (mM/l)








C2: C3








Ammonia (mg/l)









Protein supplementation resulted in no significant (P>0.05) effect on concentration of total VFA, acetate, propionate and butyrate of ruminal liquor. The trend of total VFA concentration was similar to the concetration of  acetate, propionate and butyrate. The concentration of VFA in the rumen liquor increase rapidly after feeding, reach a maximum level at 2-4 h after feeding and remain high  for few hours (Kanjanapruthipong and Leng 1998).  Since fermentation rate and VFA concentration are correlated  (Leng and Leonard 1965), thus changing in VFA concentration is a reflection of activity of fermentation process in the rumen.  This therefore suggests that the activity of fermentation process in the present study was steady, since total and partial VFA concentration are statistically similar (P>0.05) to the across the treatments,.


Ruminal liquor ammonia is major nitrogen sources for microbial protein synthesis and growth.  Present study found that protein supplement results in no significant (P>0.05) on ammonia of rumen liquor of sheep fed maize stover based diet and level of ammonia is ranging from 162 to 217 mg/l.  These values are higher than reported by Tolera and Sundstol (2000b) at the values from 34.8 to 131.1 mg/l.  Furthermore, they reported a significant elevation in ammonia level of rumen liquor with increasing level of desmodium hay supplementation to maize stover based diet. Other studies also found an increase in ammonia rumen concentration with increasing level of legume supplementation to the crop by-product based diets (Bonsi et al 1994; Abdulrazak et al 1997).  Generally, the minimum ammonia concentration for optimal rumen function could be variable depending upon the type of feed (Tolera and Sundstol 2000b). 


The ammonia values current study are well above the minmum concentration required for optimal microbial growth in the rumen as previously recommended by Satter and Slyter (1974) and Miller (1973) are 50 mg NH3-N/l and 238 mg NH3-N/l, respectively.  Moante et al (2004) reported that ruminal ammonia concentration is regulated by protein intake, rate of protein degradability, transit time of feed in the rumen and pH of rumen liquor.  Eventhough in the current study,  intake and digestibility were significantly elevated by protein supplementation,  the rate of elevation may not high enough to produce a significant differences in rumen ammonia concentration. The level of ammonia is however more likely not limiting factor for microbial synthesis and growth.   .



This research is part of the requirement for a PhD degree in the Doctoral Program of Animal Science, Postgraduate School, Faculty of Animal Husbandry, University of  Brawijaya, Indonesia.  The research was partly funded by the Directorate General of  Higher Education, Ministry of  Research Technology and Higher Education,  Republic of Indonesia.


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Received 31 May 2015; Accepted 9 June 2015; Published 2 July 2015

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