Tropical Grasslands (1984) Volume 18, 198–205

EFFECT OF REINFORCEMENT OF NATIVE GRAZING WITH SILVERLEAF DESMODIUM (DESMODIUM UNCINATUM) ON DRY SEASON PERFORMANCE OF BEEF STEERS IN ZIMBABWE

J.N. CLATWORTHY

Grasslands Research Station, Marondera, Zimbabwe

Abstract

Silverleaf desmodium (Desmodium uncinatum) was seeded into Hyparrhenia grassland on a sandy clay soil using disced strips which covered 0, 1/3, 2/3 and the whole area. After the Silverleaf desmodium had established, the plots were used for carrying weaner beef steers, at two stocking rates, through the dry season over a period of five years.
Reinforcement with Silverleaf desmodium increased herbage yields at pregrazing samplings and resulted in marked botanical changes, with taller-growing Hyparrhenia spp. displacing H. filipendula and Sporobolus pyramidalis. Lodging and death of these Hyparrhenia spp. then led to invasion by broad-leafed weeds. Steers in all treatments lost liveweight over the dry season but this loss was reduced on average by 15 kg head–1 by reinforcement with Silverleaf desmodium. During the period of liveweight loss, stocking rate had little effect but in the two years in which the steers remained in the trial after the plants had started shooting there was a marked effect of stocking rate during the period of liveweight gain. Liveweight changes were found to be related to faecal nitrogen percentages and to the initial yields of legume.
It is concluded that herbaceous trailing legumes, such as Silverleaf desmodium, are not well-suited to a regime of use during the dry season only, especially in areas subject to frost, and attention is now being directed towards the use of browse trees for this purpose.

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