Cover Image
close this bookBetter Farming Series 42 - Using Fodder from Trees and Shrubs to Feed Livestock in the Tropics (FAO, 1994, 52 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentSome common fodder trees and shrubs
View the documentFeeding fodder from treks and shrubs
View the documentGrowing fodder trees and shrubs
View the documentPractical tips
View the documentBooks to read

Some common fodder trees and shrubs

8. First let us describe some of the fodder trees and shrubs that farmers can use to feed their animals. Take note of important characteristics such as the type of soil and climate (semi-arid, subhumid, humid) in which these trees and shrubs grow best, so that you can choose suitable ones for your particular area and soil conditions.

Faidherbia albida (Acacia albida)

9. This tree grows very well in dry areas with 400-500 mm of rainfall per year. You can plant it in sandy, clay, shallow rocky soils; it generally grows well in deep and light soils.

You can plant it in sandy, clay, shallow rocky soils

10. Plant 3-4 seeds at the beginning of the rains in well-prepared spots in your field, about 10 metres apart, so you can have 70 or more trees per hectare.

You can have 70 or more trees per hectare

11. In order to get the seeds to germinate quickly in 14-28 days, you need to treat them with hot water. Boil some water, cool it for 5 minutes and then soak the seeds overnight, using at least three times more water than seeds in order to cover the seeds completely. (Some agronomists also recommend mechanical scarification which they consider to be safer under semi-arid conditions.)

You need to treat them with hot water

12. The following day, pour the water away, and plant the seeds immediately.

Plant the seeds immediately

13. The tree grows rapidly and may be as tall as 2 metres in the first year, but you need to weed regularly and protect it from animals during this time.

Protect it from animals

14. The adult tree produces green fodder but, most important, 130 kg pods (and sometimes more ) every year. These are particularly suitable for feeding your livestock.


15. Another good thing about the tree is that it starts to shed its leaves at the beginning of the rains, when crops are planted. The crops then receive nitrogen from the leaves that have fallen and will produce well.

Another good thing about the tree

16. The leaves grow again during the dry season to give shade and feed to your animals.

Shade and feed to your animals

Acacia tortilis

17. This tree spreads like an umbrella, and is known as the umbrella thorn.

The umbrella thorn

18. Farmers in dry and semi-arid areas can plant this tree for shade and feed, because it is very drought-resistant and is able to grow even where rainfall is very low. For example, you will find it in many of the countries that border the Sahara desert. It likes alkaline soils, but also grows in saline soils.

19. To plant it, first obtain seeds from the pods by pounding them in a mortar and cleaning off the chaff.

First obtain seeds from the pods

20. Then prepare the seeds either in the same way as Faidherbia (using hot water) or by shaking the seeds in a can into which holes have been punched.

Holes have been punched

21. You can then plant the seeds directly in the field in 1-cm- deep holes or by using 3-8- month-old seedlings raised in your nursery. Do not expose roots to direct sun.

You can then plant the seeds directly in the field

Albizia lebbeck

22. You can feed the fodder from-this tree to your animals in large quantities because it has no toxic compounds and animals will readily eat it.

You can feed the fodder from-this tree to your animals

23. This tree grows in dry areas with little rainfall (600 mm/year), sometimes in the form of a shrub with many branches, or in wet areas (2500 mm/year) as a tree.

As a shrub

As a tree

24. You can plant it from seeds in acid, alkaline or saline soils, directly in your field, or first in a nursery, and then transfer it to the field after about four months.

You can plant it directly in your field

First in a nursery

After about four months

Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea)

25. Pigeon pea can be grown nearly everywhere, from the dry Sahel to the subhumid wooded savannah and the humid forest areas, but you should use the types that are suitable for your particular area

Pigeon pea

26. It can be established by direct seeding in well-prepared fields; the seeds need no treatment before planting. You can plant pigeon pea with cereals such as sorghum and millet or with short-duration grain legumes such as cowpea (niebe, Vigna unguiculata).

How to plant

27. The fodder produced is of good quality; you can feed it to your livestock together with grasses or your crop residues. The plant does not like shade and does not live long. You may have to replant it every two to three years, but never replant it on the same site because of possible serious root diseases.

Gliricidia septum

28. This is a very common fodder tree found in many parts of the tropics, where it is known by different names, such as mataraton (rat killer) or madre de cacao (mother of cocoa).

Gliricidia septum

29. It grows best in wet and warm weather conditions where rainfall is over 800 mm per year. It can be grown in different types of soil -acid, alkaline or even in soils containing some clay.

30. You can grow Gliricidia from seeds or stem cuttings. If you use stem cuttings, make sure they are taken from plants over six months old, and that they are about 1.5 m long and 3-5 cm in diameter.

Stakes/stems cuttings

31. Plant the stems within three days after cutting at a dentin of about 15 cm.

Plant the stems within three days

32. If planting from seeds, soak the seeds overnight in hot water before planting. Sheep and goats like to eat this plant and they can be fed a lot of it without any problems of toxicity. Sometimes your cattle may refuse to eat Gliricidia if you give it to them as soon as you cut the leaves. However, they will eat the leaves if you dry them in the sun for two to three hours before feeding the animals.

Sometimes your cattle may refuse to eat Gliricidia

33. If you take proper care of the plant by cutting it at regular intervals, as will be described in another section, you will get a lot of green feed for your sheep and goats even during the dry season.

Leucaena leucocephala

34. This tree is found in nearly all tropical countries where it is known by different names, such as lamtoro in Indonesia, ipil-ipil in the Philippines, and guaje in Mexico. Three main types of Leucaena are available for planting.

Three main types

35. The giant or arboreal type, also known as Guatemala or Salvador type, can reach up to 20 metres; the Peru or Cunningham type has many branches and can reach about 15 metres; the common bushy or Hawaiian type is the shortest: about 5 metres. The giant and Peru types are recommended because they produce a lot of fodder.

They produce a lot of fodder

36. Leucaena grows well in areas where rainfall is between 1 200 and 2 000 mm. It does not like soils that retain too much water, so it grows best in well-drained soils that are preferably alkaline. It does not like acid soils. Areas with about 1 500 mm of rain, four months of dry season and alkaline soils are the best for growing Leucaena.

37.Leucaena seeds are very hard, so they must be treated before planting.

They must be treated

Boil water: pour it on the Leucaena seeds, using three times the amount of water to the amount of seeds, and stir the seeds for about five minutes: then pour the hot water away, and add cold water to cool down the seeds.

Boil water

Then pour the hot water away

Drain out the cold water and plant the seeds immediately. If you cannot plant immediately, dry the seeds and store them for later planting.

Drain out the cold water and plant the seeds immediately

38. Leucaena as a legume is able to transform the nitrogen gas existing in the air into nitrogen compounds that can be used by the plant itself; therefore it grows well without fertilization in soils that are poor in nitrogen.

39. This change of nitrogen gas to nitrogen compounds is known as nitrogen fixation; it is done by bacteria called rhizobia that live on the roots of Leucaena.


40. When you plant Leucaena for the first time in your field, the rhizobia may not be present, so you have to inoculate the seeds with the rhizobia. To do this, you rub the rhizobia on the seeds so that when they germinate, the rhizobia on the roots can then fix nitrogen. We shall describe how to inoculate seeds later in another section.

41. Leucaena leaves are very palatable but they also contain a toxic substance called mimosine which can harm your animals if they eat too much of it. You will find out in the next section in what form and how much of Leucaena you can feed your animals to avoid harming them.

Prosopis juliflora

42. This plant is most suitable for dry arid regions with an annual rainfall of about 500 mm or even less. It is one of the few trees that will grow well in areas where rainfall is uncertain and low (250-350 mm). It grows and remains green all year round, and does well in almost all types of soils, including rocky, acid and alkaline soils.

Prosopis juliflora

43. This plant, also known as mesquite, is grown from seeds. These seeds are embedded in hard pods.

These seeds are embedded in hard pods

44. The first step is to remove the seeds from the pods. You can do this in any of the following ways:

- cut the pod with a knife lengthwise and separate the seeds inside. This takes time and is not suitable if you need a lot of seeds;

Cut the pod with a knife

- feed the pods to animals and collect the seeds that come out free and intact in the animal faeces, ready for planting; however, the animal has to be tied down to collect the seeds;

The animal has to be tied down

- sun- dry the pods and pound or mill them to separate the seeds:

sun-dry the pods

- the pods can also be treated with chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide to free the seeds; this method is expensive and dangerous because the chemicals are harmful.

45. After getting the seeds out of the pods, you need to treat them to improve germination because, like Leucaena and some other plants, the seeds have a tough coat that prevents water from entering to start the germination.

46. in water for six to ten hours; you can also boil water and then put in the seeds and continue boiling for about five minutes.

You can soak the seeds

47. Then remove the seeds from the water and plant immediately. You can plant the seeds directly in the soil or in "torroes paulistas" (see further on).

48. For direct seed planting, make sure the field is well prepared and well watered, otherwise the seeds will dry out. Watering is very important if you do not plant during the rains.

Watering is very important

49. Prepare for planting in "torroes paulistas" - which is soil, clay and manure moulded in the form of a pot by mixing two parts of soil, two parts of clay and one part of manure, adding water until you obtain a semisolid paste.

Mix with water

50. Leave the paste to settle and dry for a day, then cut it out in the form of a pot, let it dry and use when needed. (You can also use, as in Thailand, one part of soil, one part of sand and one part of rice husk ashes.)

Leave the paste to settle and dry for a day

51. When the seedlings germinate and reach a height of about 20 cm, plant them in the field by digging a pit and placing the "torroa paulista" with the seedling in the pit.

Plant them in the field

52. It is best to plant at the beginning of the rains so that the growing seedlings will have enough water and survive the following dry season.

53. Prosopis juliflora is a good fodder tree that grows rapidly and starts producing a lot of pods from the second or third year. You can feed the pods to all classes of livestock either alone or with other feeds. Read the next section to see how you can use the plant to feed your livestock.