Cenchrus ciliaris is considered to be highly nutritive and excellent for pasture in hot, dry areas. It is valued for its production of palatable forage and intermittent grazing during dry periods in the tropics. In Australia, it was found to be beneficial for maintaining livestock during droughts and increasing production per head and per hectare compared with alternative grasses. This was reflected in increasing returns per kilogram for finishing cattle, partly through reducing the age at slaughter, increasing options for management, and reducing dominance of unpalatable grasses due to heavy dry season grazing (Cook et al., 2005).
The digestibility of fresh Cenchrus ciliaris fed to sheep after 30 to 50 days of regrowth was in the 60-69% range (Combellas et al., 1972). In vitro OM digestibility of standing hay ranged from 53 to 64% (Jacobs et al., 2004). The digestibility of buffel grass hay fed to sheep at 56 days of regrowth was in the 49-69% range depending on the amount of N fertilizer applied to the crop (0 to 100 kg/ha) (Donaldson et al., 1977). In Mexico it was found that the nutrient content and digestion parameters of Cenchrus ciliaris varied among seasons; nutrient digestion was higher during summer and autumn and lower during spring and winter (Ramirez et al., 2001). While live-weight gain was related to digestibility, selecting buffel grass for higher digestibility would not necessarily identify the highest quality genotypes in terms of animal production (Minson et al., 1995).
Pasture and fresh forage
Cenchrus ciliaris can carry up to one grazing steer per ha and cattle can gain up to 180-200 kg/head/year, at 2 ha/animal on fertile soils under good growing conditions (Cook et al., 2005). In Australia, buffel grass grown on impoverished land produced weight loss in cattle between May and November, but where adequate fertilizer was applied annual live weight gain of 160 kg/ha was achieved (FAO, 2010).
In Tanzania, supplementing Cenchrus ciliaris hay with leaves from four legumes improved crude protein intake in growing Mpwapwa bulls (Mero et al., 1998).
Sheep and goats
Pasture and fresh forage
Cenchrus ciliaris can carry up to 6 sheep/ha (Cook et al., 2005). The voluntary intake of fresh buffel grass fed to sheep after 30 to 50 days of regrowth ranged between 70 and 80 g/kg W0.75 (Combellas et al., 1972). Early harvesting and feeding at levels allowing at least 30% refusals is recommended for growing sheep (Mero et al., 1998). In India, it was concluded that while Cenchrus ciliaris pastures provide adequate nutrition to sheep and goats during the lush season, supplementation becomes necessary during the lean season (Shinde et al., 1996).
Cenchrus ciliaris hay cut at 56 days of regrowth resulted in voluntary intake in the 50-65 g/kg W0.75 range and average daily gain from -4.5 to 57.3 g, depending on N fertilization (0 to 100 kg/ha) (Donaldson et al., 1977).