Livestock Research for Rural Development 31 (7) 2019 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Feed intake and animal preference rating of indigenous forage shrub species in the Savanna ecosystem of Ghana

A I Ziblim, S K Oppong1, E Danquah1 and A N Collins2

Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Management, University for Development Studies, Box TL 1350 Tamale, Ghana   /
1 Department of Wildlife and Range Management, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
2 Department of Ecotourism and Forest Recreation, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana


The study was conducted to estimate the dry matter intake of selected native forage shrub species by West Africa Dwarf (WAD) goats and sheep and to assess the preference of the selected forage shrub species by the animals. Four native forage shrub species, viz, Cajanus cajan, Securinega virosa, Stylosanthes mucronata and Tephrosia purpurea were grown and fed to eight (8) West African Dwarf goats and sheep. Four (4) each of 17 months old female West African Dwarf (WAD) goats and sheep were considered using the Cafeteria system. Data obtained from the experiment were subjected to two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Preference data were analysed as a complete randomised design using collection days as replicates and shrub species and animals as treatments. T-test was conducted on the intake data to indicate differences between the animals by using Minitab software (version 16). The differences among mean values were compared by Fisher’s protected Least Significant Difference at 5% probability. It was observed that both WAD sheep (0.86 kg DM intake per day) and goats (0.67 kg DM intake per day) preferred Tephrosia purpurea as compared to the other shrubs. Intake of dry matter of C. cajan and S. virosa was higher in goats than in sheep. In conclusion, different forage shrub species are preferred by different animal species in the same locality.

Keywords: acceptability, intake, palatability


Intake and digestibility are two major determinants of forage quality. Animal performance is the product of nutrient concentration, intake, digestibility and metabolic efficiency of absorbed nutrients (David, 2007). Though nutrient content, particularly dietary fibre or plant cell wall concentration, affects intake potential and digestibility, it is the animal’s response to these forage physiognomies that ultimately determines the nutritional quality of forages. Voluntary intake of feed is a significant indicator of feed quality, which is well acknowledged and transform into potential animal performance (Coleman and Moore, 2003). The consumption of plant species by animals depends on their preference and acceptability.

Feeding behaviour of animals is categorised into behaviour patterns, feeding and habitat preference (Nastis, 2007) and many factors affect the animals’ feeding behaviour (Goetsch et al 2010).

Palatability is affected by many animal factors such as general of the animal health, hunger and differential preference for forage species (Kochare et al 2018) as well as environmental influences (Jimma et al 2016; Adimasu, 2008). Palatability is also affected by different plant factors such as degree of maturity, growth stage, chemical composition, morphological and seasonal availability of plants (Amjad et al 2014). Potential intake rate and relative preference are the primary indices for palatability (Sultan et al 2007). Whereas potential intake rate is influenced by level of tenderness, relative preference is affected by chemical factors (Rahim et al 2013).

Savannas contain varied shrub species with varying degrees of palatability and acceptability (Skarpe and Hester, 2008). Some researchers observed that sheep usually select grasses and forbs more than shrubs and goats prefer shrubs (Khan 1996). Shrub fodder is vital feed supply for supplementing the seasonal shortage in feed availability for livestock and nutritive value (Mlambo et al 2008). Dumont et al (2007) explained that the level of choice of animals for plant species is dependent on sward constituents and their quality. Studies by Khan and Hussain (2012) revealed that animals generally select live fresh forage. This study aimed at ascertaining the potential of indigenous forage shrub species as animals feed, estimating the intake and preference of selected forage shrub species by West Africa Dwarf goats and sheep.

Materials and Methods

Description of the experimental site

The field experiment was carried out at the experimental farm of the Faculty of Natural Resources and Environment, University for Development Studies, Nyankpala Campus, Ghana from October, 2014 to February, 2015. This area is located within the savanna ecosystem on latitude 09˚ 25' N and longitude 00˚ 55' W and with an altitude of 183 m above sea level. Nyankpala Campus is 16 km (10 miles) away from Tamale, the capital of Northern Region. The area experiences annual rainfall of about 1,034 mm from April to early November with mean monthly temperature of 220C. Maximum monthly relative humidity value of 80 % can be recorded during the rainy season while a minimum monthly value of 42 % during the dry season is observed. The vegetation is guinea savanna with grasses as the dominant plant species and interspersed with economic but drought resistant trees such as Vitellaria paradoxa, Adansonia digitata, and Tamarindus indica. The soils are well drained with low nitrogen content due to the low organic matter cover (Ziblim et al 2016).

Study animals and shrubs

A total of eight (8) animals were used for the trial. Four (4) each of 17 months old female West African Dwarf (WAD) goats and sheep were considered using the Cafeteria system (Larbi et al 1993). The sheep and goats were obtained from a livestock farmer in Cheyohi, a farming community close to the experimental site. Four selected indigenous forage shrub species namely, Cajanus cajan, Securinega virosa, Stylosanthes mucronata and Tephrosia purpurea were considered for the experiment (Plates 1, 2, 3 and 4). These shrub species were selected based on a survey conducted on livestock farmers and they were noted to be readily available and commonly used by the farmers to feed their animals in the study area. Fresh leaves of these shrubs were harvested in the morning and rinsed in water to avoid any contamination. One (1) kilogram fresh leaves each of the shrubs were weighed, kept in clean well labeled separate open plastic containers and carried to the animals under the same housing structure.

Plate 1. Cajanus cajan Plate 2. Securinega virosa

Plate 3. Stylosanthes mucronata Plate 4. Tephrosia purpurea
Preference study

One (1) kilogram of freshly harvested leaves from each shrub species was offered separately and randomly to each of the four West African Dwarf (WAD) goats and sheep kept in separate pen under a single roof (Larbi et al 1993). The animals were exposed to the sample feed for four (4) hours for four consecutive times each day from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm (peak hours for grazing) and the weight of feed consumed measured and recorded based on the quantity of feed not consumed (Kalio et al 2006). The order of the placement of the test feed in the pen was randomized to avoid “habit reflex” by the animals (Kaitho et al 1996). The feed intake was estimated during each experimental period by the conventional difference method between amount offered and rejected.

Feed preference was determined from the Coefficient of Preference (CoP) value calculated from the ratio between the intake of each shrub sample divided by the average intake of the four feed samples (Karbo et al 1993, Bamikole et al 2004, Babayemi et al 2006). Coefficient of Preference (CoP) is a direct measure of acceptability and nutritional capability of feedstuff or forage and a shrub species was considered relatively preferred if the CoP value is greater than unity. The results were used to rank the various shrub species by preference.

Data analysis

The dry matter intake data obtained were subjected to analysis of variance (ANOVA) to determine the preferred shrub species. T-test by the use of Minitab software (version 16.0) was conducted on the intake data to show the difference in preference between the goats and the sheep on the shrub species. Differences in preference among mean values were compared by Fisher’s protected Least Significant Difference Test at 5% probability.


Preference and plant matter intake by animals
Table 1. Mean dry matter intake (kg /DM) of selected shrubs by animals
Shrub species Sheep Goat
C. cajan 0.16c 0.23c
T. purpurea 0.86a 0.67a
S. mucronata 0.31b 0.35cd
S. virosa 0.21c 0.48bd
SEM 0.02 0.04
P – value 0.001 0.001
Means bearing different superscripts within columns are different ar p < 0.05

Table 2. Between sheep and goats, intake was significant in C. cajan and S. virosa
Shrub species Mean (SEM) P-Value
Sheep Goat
C. cajan 0.16(0.009)b 0.23(0.013)a 0.007
T. purpurea 0.86(0.045)a 0.67(0.070)a 0.071
S. mucronata 0.31(0.025)a 0.35(0.015)a 0.323
S. virosa 0.21(0.010)b 0.48(0.020)a 0.000
Means bearing different superscripts within rows are different at p < 0.05

Tephrosia purpurea was highly preferred by both the WAD sheep and goats while C. cajan was least preferred (Tables 3 and 4).

Preference ranking of shrub species by animals
Table 3. Mean Coefficient of Preference (CoP) values and Preference Ranking (PR) of some indigenous shrubs used by WAD sheep
Shrub Species Plant part Coefficient of Preference Preference Ranking
Tephrosia purpurea Leaves 2.24 1
Stylosanthes mucronata Leaves 0.80 2
Securinega virosa Leaves 0.57 3
Cajanus cajan Leaves 0.43 4

Table 4. Mean Coefficient of Preference (CoP) values and Preference Ranking (PR) of indigenous shrubs used by WAD Goats
Shrub Species Plant part Coefficient of Preference Preference Ranking
Tephrosia purpurea Leaves 1.55 1
Securinega virosa Leaves 1.12 2
Stylosanthes mucronata Leaves 0.80 3
Cajanus cajan Leaves 0.52 4


The observed variations in the mean dry matter intake of shrubs by the WAD sheep and goats could be influenced by difference in the plant species, mode of presentation, texture of the leaves and chemical constituents of the leaves (Kouch et al 2003; Keopaseuht et al 2004). Olafadehan (2011) reported that the main constraint to the use of shrubs as feed for livestock is the occurrence of anti-nutritional factors which can be poisonous and induce toxicity consumed exclusively for long time by animal. The low intake or near total rejection of C. cajan by both the sheep and goats could be attributed to the presence and level of secondary plant metabolites in the leaves as well as other plant factors such as presence of hairs (Alonso-Diaz et al 2008; Amjad et al 2014). Animals are likely to show difference in intake if species differ in secondary compounds, macronutrient concentrations, and flavors (Provenza et al 2003). Kaitho et al (1997) indicated that preference of forage by animals is affected by taste, odour and texture, chemical composition. Personius et al (1987) also reported that herbivores are able to detect some toxic chemicals in fodder through their sense of smell either before or soon after the first bite.

Based on the intake, the shrub species were ranked from most to least preferred. By the procedure of Karbo et al (1996) on which the CoP was evaluated, both WAD sheep and goats highly preferred T. purpurea to the rest of the species. The preference for the shrubs was, however, in the order; T. purpurea > S. mucronata > S. virosa > C. cajan for the WAD sheep. For the WAD goat, it was T. purpurea > S. virosa > S. mucronata> C. cajan.

These rankings could, however, change depending on animal species involved, season or availability of the forage. Kaitho et al (1996) commented that some forage species that are least preferred in times of abundance could be favoured or relished when in scarcity. No species was, however, avoided by the animals. Differences in the nutritional, anti-nutritional and other astringent tastes in the forage might have been partly accountable for the differences in the observed Coefficient of preference. Similar to these results, variation in preference for browse species has been documented in Australia by sheep and goats (Lambert et al 1989). Although very productive in terms of dry matter yield, C. cajan was less preferred by both sheep and goats in the present study, which may affect its utilization in agroforestry systems. The relatively greater intake of C. cajan and S. virosa by the goat compared to the sheep could mean that they are more preferred by the goat. This partly is in concordance with Wilson et al (1995) who remarked that sheep preferred grasses and forb than shrubs while goats preferred shrubs. Generally, the animal species differed in their preference for the various shrub species studied and this could be related to the genetic makeup of the animals (Bartoszuk et al (2001).



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Received 13 March 2019; Accepted 4 May 2019; Published 2 July 2019

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