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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #387347

Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Grass and Forage Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Use of sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) as a nutraceutical forage for livestock

item TERRILL, THOMAS - Fort Valley State University
item WHITLEY, NIKI - Fort Valley State University
item Burke, Joan
item MILLER, JAMES - Louisiana State University

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/1/2021
Publication Date: 5/12/2021
Citation: Terrill, T.H., Whitley, N.C., Burke, J.M., Miller, J.E. 2021. Use of sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) as a nutraceutical forage for livestock. Journal of Animal Science. 99(Suppl. 2);34-35.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Sericea lespedeza (SL; Lespedeza cuneata) is a widely-adapted warm season perennial legume that can be used for grazing, hay, or as a conservation plant. Planted extensively for erosion control in the Southeast in the 1930’s and 1940’s, SL was considered an inexpensive, but relatively low-quality feed for livestock due to high fiber (thick stems) and tannin content. Over the last 60 years, an SL breeding program at Auburn University resulted in release of improved cultivars with lower fiber (1960’s), less tannin (1970’s), and improved grazing tolerance (1990’s), although interest in SL as a forage crop remained relatively low. This has changed recently as research over the last 10-15 years has demonstrated the excellent bioactivity of this plant against infection with gastrointestinal nematodes (Haemonchus contortus) and protozoan parasites (Eimeria spp.) in livestock. This bioactivity, which has been attributed to a unique type of condensed tannins, has been confirmed in fresh (grazed), dried (hay, meal, pellets), and preserved (ensiled) forms of SL in a number of studies with sheep, goats, and cattle. The tannins in SL have also been reported to prevent bloat, reduce ruminal methane production, and kill housefly larvae in manure, further contributing to the renewed interest in SL as a nutraceutical (nutritional + pharmaceutical) forage for livestock. Animal performance of SL for cattle was described as similar to bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) in a number of studies in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but more recent cattle performance data with SL are not available. A recent study with goats showed higher animal performance with no reduction in anti-parasitic bioactivity with well-fertilized SL compared with SL produced under normal (low-input) conditions. Future work on SL will focus on optimizing nutritional and bioactivity (nutraceutical) properties of this forage for different species of livestock.