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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Forage and Range Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #304903

Research Project: Develop Improved Plant Genetic Resources to Enhance Pasture and Rangeland Productivity in the Semiarid Regions of the Western U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: Addition of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) to lamb diets enhances production and profits in northern China

Author
item RONG, YUPING - China Agricultural University
item YUAN, FEI - China Agricultural University
item Johnson, Douglas

Submitted to: Livestock Research for Rural Development
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/10/2014
Publication Date: 12/1/2014
Citation: Rong, Y., Yuan, F., Johnson, D.A. 2014. Addition of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) to lamb diets enhances production and profits in northern China. Livestock Research for Rural Development. 26:224.

Interpretive Summary: The agro-pastoral transitional zone of northern China is an ecologically fragile area with a short growing season and extensive livestock production, where feed storage is a key constraint to sheep production, especially in winter. This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of various ratios of grass hay/crop straw and alfalfa hay on lamb growth and economics of lamb production. Lambs were fed vive diets with various proportions of alfalfa and grass hay/crop straw. Daily animal gain was greatest for lambs fed a diet mixture of 75% alfalfa and 25% grass hay/crop straw. Total profit per lamb was also highest with the 75% alfalfa diet and resulted in profits that were 67% higher than lambs fed only grass hay/crop straw. It is recommended that household lamb producers in northern China should feed their lambs diets containing 75% alfalfa to achieve higher profits compared to feeding only grass hay/crop straw.

Technical Abstract: The agro-pastoral transitional zone of northern China is an ecologically fragile area with a short growing season and extensive livestock production, where feed shortage is a key constraint to ruminant production, especially in winter. This study was conducted to evaluate the effects of various ratios of grass hay/crop straw and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) hay on lamb growth, feed intake, nutrient digestibility and economics of lamb production. Twenty five three-month-old local cross breed male lambs with initial body weight (IBW) of 20.0 plus or minus 0.65 kg (mean plus or minus SD) were blocked into five groups based on IBW and randomly assigned to diets with various proportions of alfalfa and grass hay/crop straw, including 0:100 (T1), 25:75 (T2), 50:50 (T3), 75:25 (T4) and 100:0 (T5). Results indicated that lambs fed alfalfa had higher intake of dry mater (DM), organic matter (OM), crude proteion (CP) and fiber than lambs fed only grass hay/crop straw. Average daily gain (ADG) was greatest in lambs fed a diet mixture of 75:25 alfalfa and grass hay/crop straw. Total profit per lamb was also highest with the 75:25 mixture ($27.77), which was 67% higher than lambs fed only grass hay/crop straw. Given the current cost of alfalfa in northern China and the ADG gains that can be achieved with the addition of alfalfa to lamb diets, it is recommended that household lamb producers in northern China feed their lambs with diets containing 375 g/kg alfalfa to achieve higher profits compared to feeding only grass hay/crop straw.