Berseem is a very palatable and fairly digestible forage (Das et al., 1999). It is particularly valuable since it is a non-bloating forage legume (Hannaway et al., 2004).
Fresh berseem has a good nutritional value very comparable to that of fresh alfalfa (Brink et al., 1988; Fraser et al., 2004; Yoelao et al., 1970). The nutritive value of berseem (protein and energy) can meet the requirements of relatively high producing dairy cows (more than 30 L/d), provided the cows consume sufficient DM to achieve this level of production (Fulkerson et al., 2007). When grazed before the oldest foliage began to senesce, the metabolizable protein content of berseem can be particularly high compared to other fresh forages (Fulkerson et al., 2007). In India, the sole feeding of berseem supported a growth rate of 550 g/d in buffaloes (Chauhan et al., 1992); and in dairy cows maintenance and milk production up to 10 kg/d (Das et al., 1999).
Wheat straw can be a major source of ruminant feed. Inclusion of berseem in a wheat based ration, up to 30% of the DM, increased intake and DM, OM and NDF digestibility. The 45% inclusion level was less beneficial when offered to 320 kg steers (Das et al., 1999).
Berseem hay has a good nutritive value comparable to that of alfalfa hay harvested at comparable maturity (Karsli et al., 1999; Sharma et al., 1974). Organic matter digestibility (OMD) ranged from 63 to 71% in growing cows and crude protein digestibility ranged from 63 to 75% in growing goats. Dry matter intake (DMI) ranged between 2.4 and 3.0% BW for growing heifers, buffalo, sheep and goats (Sharma et al., 1974). Due to its high digestible crude protein content and OM digestibility, diets consisting exclusively of berseem hay were satisfactory for supporting moderately good gains in weight of cattle, buffalo and sheep (Sharma et al., 1974). It seems that berseem hay, like alfafay hay, can supplement maize crop residues (Karsli et al., 1999).
It has been observed on wether lambs that DM intake and DM, NDF, ADF and protein digestibility clearly increased as the proportion of alfalfa or berseem clover hay mixed with maize crop residues increased from 0 to 50% (Karsli et al., 1999). Berseem hay could be an adequate supplement for maize crop residues for early winter as a stockpiled forage in Midwestern United States. The rapid rate at which its nutritive value declines during winter limits its use in late winter grazing of mid- gestation cows (Karsli et al., 1999).
Harvest management in which cuts are applied at the stage of sixth internode elongation appears to be the most favourable for obtaining high yields of forage with high nutritional value in berseem grown in Mediterranean regions (Santis et al., 2004). However, protein content and in vitro DM digestibility remain relatively steady with the stage of maturity until early flowering (Ammar et al., 2010; Santis et al., 2004).
It has been reported that berseem could also be used as straw, after threshing and collecting seeds. In that case, its nutritive value is lower than that reported for hays but remained higher than that reported for traditional cereal straws, with a protein content about 8.5% DM, DM digestibility about 49% and DM intake at 6.8 kg/d in Murrah buffalos of 370 kg live weight (Kaushal et al., 2006).
Like other leguminous fodders, berseem has a good buffering capacity and a high moisture content that can delay a drop in pH during ensiling, resulting in deterioration of the nutritive value. For this reason, berseem is often mixed before ensiling with wheat straw and molasses (Sarwar et al., 2005). Other dry and fibrous fodders such as sugarcane bagasse can also be used (Mohsen et al., 2011b). In lactating buffaloes, a diet based on 25% concentrate and 75% berseem ensiled with straw and 2% of molasses had a reduced intake compared to the same diet with fresh berseem. The effect on DM and protein digestibility was not significant (Sarwar et al., 2005).
In goats, the feeding value of a berseem/bagasse (70:30) mixed silage with berseem cut during the 1st and 2nd cycle was higher than that of berseem hay cut during the 3rd and 4th cycle (Mohsen et al., 2011a; Mohsen et al., 2011b).