The report - a collaboration between the Institute de Ciencia Animal, Cuba; the office of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Cuba; and the FAO’s Production and Health Division in Italy - scrutinised the benefits of the foliage from mulberry, moringa and tithonia plants as animal feed in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Win-win for stakeholders
Professor Harinder Makkar, livestock officer, animal production and health officer, FAO, told FeedNavigator: “Sufficient knowledge is available for the feed industry to consider replacing a part of soymeal with moringa or mulberry leaf meals.
“This could be a win-win situation for both the industry and farmers. Also this would be good for the environment.”
The three plants are already used for animal feed in the Caribbean and Latin America but Makkar believes their use should be more widespread.
“In other continents in the tropics, the potential of these feeds is little known. Soybean and other protein-rich feeds are already in scarce supply, and an increase in animal products will further increase their demand,” he said.
“The role of both the feed industry and governments is vital in converting these unconventional feeds to the conventional ones.”
One of the key findings of the report is that introducing such plants in animal diets will reduce feed costs compared to current conventional feeds, such as seed cakes and soymeal.
“Mulberry, moringa and tithonia leaf meals are rich in protein and the proteins, especially in moringa, are of very good quality; they are extensively used not only as a substitute for conventional feeds in ruminant diets but also in the diets of monogastric animals such as pigs, poultry and rabbits. The use of leaf meals also decreases food costs,” said Dr Makkar.
“The studies conducted in Latin America and the Caribbean suggest that a huge biomass can be obtained. The protein and other nutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) yield unit area from moringa could be five to 10 times higher than that from soybean.”
Mulberry, the authors assert, is a plant resource useful for pig rearing, particularly as it will help relieve cost pressures on importing products.
The report said: “Animal response in the fattening period when more inputs are required in the pig production system suggest that mulberry can be a plant resource capable of being usefully integrated into pig rearing, perhaps through a perennial plantation with periodic cutting and fertilized with pig effluent. This is a new concept and deserves further consideration.”
For cows, mulberry’s high calcium content means it has “high potential” as feed during their initial lactation stages; but the report stressed it could cause some infertility problems and is recommended only as part of an overall diet.
“The biological availability of the nutrients contained in the foillage shows that this forage material is a promising substitute for the concentrate feeds commonly employed in dairy cattle feeding,” the report said.
“Among the three plants, moringa stands out because of its high potential to generate huge biomass and the leaf meal being rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and iron,” said Dr Makkar.
The chemical composition of moringa means it is an “excellent option” as feed for cattle and small ruminants, the report says, which also points to its high nutritional value for non-ruminants too, helping boost the overall nutritional value of the feed.
Additionally, the report said there was concrete evidence of the benefits of including high levels of moringa in the diet of poultry and swine in relation to adequate growth rate, egg production, viability, health and egg quality.
The authors also said moringa could be used as a complement to “poor quality fibrous diets in sheep, goats and cattle”.
The report adds: “The similarity of the productive results from substituting commercial concentrates of high cost by moringa confers on this shrub a positive value from both economic and social viewpoints.”
While the data on the nutrition and feeding benefits of tithonia is rare, the report said it has potential use for animal feed.
The report said that tithonia’s high level of digestible nutrients means it can be an alternative food source for ruminants in the tropics, especially in seasonal periods of feed shortage.
The report said: “In studies carried out with sheep, goats and cattle, this plant has demonstrated its benefits regarding consumption and palatability, which has had a positive influence on production parameters for the various ruminant species.”