Potential as a Finishing Diet for Lambs
December 17, 2001
Can a crop grown to make paper be
used to feed animals? Agricultural Research
Service scientists say yes, based on their studies in El Reno, Okla.
ARS nutritionist William A. Phillips and colleagues at the
Grazinglands Research Laboratory in El
Reno compared two crops as a roughage source in the finishing diets of lambs.
One was kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.), a relatively new crop to the
United States. The other, alfalfa (Medicago sativa), is the most
commonly grown U.S. hay crop.
A member of the hibiscus family, kenaf is related to cotton and okra and
does well in many parts of the United States. Although not widely grown here,
it has been grown around the world as a source of fiber. In the United States,
kenaf has been cultivated primarily for pulp in papermaking.
Previous research at El Reno has shown kenaf could replace alfalfa pellets,
a commonly used protein supplement in sheep and cattle diets, as a crude
protein supplement for lambs fed bermudagrass or fescue hay, without affecting
feed intake or gain. The researchers used the lambs as an experimental model
for cattle and concluded that the same response would be likely in cattle.
In the most recent project, 53 spring-born lambs were randomly assigned to
pens and fed one of two different diets. Each diet contained 86 percent corn,
nearly 6 percent molasses, more than 1 percent limestone and ammonium chloride,
and 5 percent of either ground alfalfa hay or ground kenaf hay. Data from the
study showed kenaf hay can replace alfalfa hay in the finishing diets of lambs
without significantly affecting feed intake or performance.
Alfalfa is a perennial legume used in high-concentrate diets fed to lambs
and cattle to provide protein and dietary fiber. To produce alfalfa, farmers
must make a multi-year commitment of land and resources that is not always
optimal for some integrated cropping-livestock enterprises. In some cases,
unconventional annual crops like kenaf would provide producers with more
flexibility than a perennial crop--including the option of marketing kenaf as a
livestock feed or a source of fiber.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.