Reported digestibility (in vitro and in vivo) of Guatemala grass is generally low, in the 50-60% range, though highly variable. In vitro digestibility of Guatemala grass cut between 7 and 12 weeks of age was found to range between 47 and 56%, but could be as high as 72% when cut young (Wandera, 1997). When Guatemala grass silage and hay in vivo digestibility was compared in Indian bullocks, it was found that silage had a better nutritive value than hay: DM, protein and crude fibre digestibility were respectively 60%, 59% and 51% for silage, and 55%, 59% and 44% for hay (Das et al., 2000). In Burundi, OM digestibility was found to be between 44-67% (Pozy et al., 1996).
Use as main forage
In Burundi, the intake of Guatemala grass alone (0.64 UF and 47 g/kg DM of PDI according to the INRA feeding system) could only meet 78 and 73% respectively of the energy and protein requirements for maintenance of steers or sheep (Nivyobizi et al., 2010). The forage obtained from the association of Guatemala grass with a legume tree (Leucaena diversifolia or Callandria calothyrsus) contained relatively high levels of protein and provided digestible protein levels above the maintenance requirement for goats (Akyeampong et al., 1996).
In Costa Rica, one-year-old Guatemala grass offered to goats (at 7.5%, 10.0% and 12.5% body weight) contained 8-9% crude protein in the DM, which was acceptable for such a relatively old forage, and provided the minimum amount of crude protein required for maintenance. Goats showed the highest consumption when fed at 7.5% body weight, though there were no compositional differences between treatments. It was estimated that younger (less than one year) Guatemala grass could result in a better nutritional content, higher intake and higher production results (Vargas-Rodriguez, 2009).
In Cameroon, West African Dwarf sheep and goats gained less weight when fed Guatemala grass than with elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum). Guatemala grass fed to dairy goats (Saanen, Toggenburg and Anglo-Nubian) resulted in a higher milk production than elephant grass (0.50 vs.0.26 kg/doe/day) with a high fat and total solid content (4.7 and 11.8%, respectively) (Fomunyam et al., 2000).
Use as supplementary forage
In Cameroon, Guatemala grass used as dry season supplementary forage for West African Dwarf sheep and goats grazing on natural pasture resulted in lower mortality and increased daily weight gains (Ndamukong et al., 2010). Adequate diets can be formulated by combining Guatemala grass with other grasses such as Congo grass (Brachiaria ruziziensis) or elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and leaves of multipurpose trees, and could help to improve the overall productive performance of ruminants in Central Africa (Tedonkeng Pamo et al., 2007).