Animal feed resources information system

White mulberry (Morus alba)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


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Common names 

White mulberry, russian mulberry, silkworm mulberry [English]; gewone moerbei, witmoerbei [Afrikaans]; mûrier blanc [French]; weißer Maulbeerbaum [German]; Iboberi [Kinyarwanda]; vitt mullbär [Swedish]; ; amoreira-branca [Portuguese]; mora, moral blanco, morera blanca [Spanish];Puting moras [Tagalog]; Beyaz dut [Turkish]; dâu tằm, dâu tàu, tằm tang [Vietnamese]; murbei [Bahasa indonesia]; bebesaran [malaysia]; توت أبيض [Arabic]; 白桑 [Chinese]; توت سفید [Farsi]; תות לבן [Hebrew]; शहतूत [Hindi]; 뽕나무 [Korean]; ログワ(kuwa) [Japanese]; Шелковица белая [Russian] (USDA, 2019; Wikipedia, 2019).


Morus alba f. tatarica Ser., Morus alba var. constantinopolitana Loudon, Morus alba var. multicaulis (Perr.) Loudon, Morus indica L., Morus multicaulis Perr.

Taxonomic information 

It is thought that the generic name "Morus" comes from the latin word "mora" which could have referred to the late expansion of the buds. A celtic etymology "mor" could have been proposed according to the colour of the fruit in the genus. The binomial taxon "Morus alba" could have been chosen after the light-coloured buds and not after the colour of the fruits (Orwa et al., 2009).

Related feed(s) 

White mulberry is a high-yielding pantropical and subtropical medium-sized tree traditionally used as fodder for silkworm but it also provides a highly palatable forage (leaves and stems) suitable for most farm animals (Martin et al., 2017).


White mulberry (Morus alba) is a fast growing, deciduous, medium-sized tree that grows to a height of 25-35 m. It has a dense spreading crown, generally wider than the height of the tree. White mulberry can have a pyramidal shape or have a drooping habit. Its bole is straight, cylindrical without buttresses and up to 1.8 m in girth. The bark is vertically fissured, dark greyish-brown in colour, exuding a white or yellowish latex. The leaves of white mulberry are light green in colour, alternate, petiolate, cordate at their base and very variable in shape. They can be simple or compound (3-5 lobed) even on the same tree, dentate, palmately veined, coriaceous and caducous. The inflorescence is axillary and pendulous. The flowers are unisexual inconspicuous, greenish in colour, looking like catkins (male flowers) or spikes (female flowers). The trees are monoecious or dioecious without buttresses (Orwa et al., 2009). The fruit is a 5 cm long fleshy, juicy, edible but not very tasty berry that consists in a syncarp of achenes enclosed in succulent sepals. The seeds of mulberry (Morus spp.) are very small and the 1000-seed weight is 2.2-2.3 g (Ecocrop, 2019; Orwa et al., 2009; Alonzo, 1999).


White mulberry (Morus alba) is chiefly used to rear silkworm and produce silk. Its foliage can also be used as a source of fodder for livestock. The leaves and stems can be cooked as a vegetable and the fruits are edible and can be eaten raw or dried and used as a raisin substitutes. White mulberry fruits can also be transformed into juices and beverages. In India, the fruits are traditionally used for dyeing wool in red or purple colour. White mulberry bark and wood have been used for centuries for tannery and paper fabrication. The tree provides several environmental services (see below) and is also used as an ornamental in gardens and along roadsides and avenues. Many parts of white mulberry are used in various traditional medicine (Ecocrop, 2019; Orwa et al., 2009; Alonzo, 1999).

In China, mulberry trees (Morus spp.) are part of a millenial circular economy system including the mulberry trees, silk production, fish farming, agriculture and livestock farming: the silkworms feed on leaves of mulberry trees, the silkworm pupae are fed to fish. The silkworm faeces and the wastewater from silk processing are used to fertilize fish ponds while pond silt makes a good fertilizer for fodder crops that, in turn, are fed to livestock (Cook et al., 2005).


White mulberry originated from China where it was already cultivated 4700 years ago. It was introduced to Europe during the 12th century. In latin America (Mexico, Peru), it was introduced by the Spaniards shortly after the conquest (Hanelt et al., 2001). White mulberry (Morus alba) was also introduced to Australia where it became naturalized. White mulberry (Morus alba) is now considered a weed in New South-Wales and Queensland (Queensland Government, 2011). 

The main area of cultivation of white mulberry tree are the countries of the Middle East, East and South-East Asia. Prior to synthetic silk invention, the mulberry was cultivated in Europe and America for this purpose too.

White mulberry (Morus alba) is a very adaptable species that is widely found from the tropics to the temperate regions (even sub-arctic) and from sea level to altitudes as high as 4000 m (Ercisli et al., 2007). In the wild, mulberry trees grow in ravines, valleys and coastal areas (Orwa et al., 2009).

White mulberry (Morus alba) can be cultivated in places where daily temperatures range between 18 to 30°C and annual rainfall is between 600 to 2500 mm with relative humidity between 65 to 80% (Ting-Zing et al., 1988). The mulberry (Morus spp.) trees are tolerant of shade but are highly susceptible to drought. They can grow on a variety of soils from sandy loam to clayey loam but prefer deep, well-drained alluvial loamy, neutral to slightly acidic soils (pH from 6 to 7.5) (Ecocrop, 2019). White mulberry is tolerant of poor soils and can be used to reclame soils contaminated by heavy metals (Lingyun Zhou et al., 2015; Alonzo, 1999).



Drying of white mulberry leaves can be done under sunlight or under shade. Drying under the sun needs 3 to 5 days while drying under the shade needs about 5 days even during the rainy season in the tropics : temperature 25-32°C and humidity of 80-90% (Nieves et al., 2008a; Montejo-Sierra et al., 2018). Though at first sight, sun drying seems to be quicker and therefore more interesting, in practice, drying in the shade ( in a dry place protected from rains), is more advisable because leaves production and harvest of mulberry leaves are maximal during the rainy season. In addition, during the rainy season sun drying is difficult (extra work necessary by some unexpected rain fall) and not secure, with potential mycotoxins development (Montejo-Sierra et al., 2018). The nutritive value also appeared to be higher in white mulberry foliage dried under shade (Montejo-Sierra et al., 2018).

Leaf meal preparation for poultry

The preparation of white mulberry (Morus alba) leaf meal for poultry is done as follows: the foliage is cut after 60-70 days of regrowth at 50 cm above soil and then dried during 5-7 days under sunlight so that DM reaches 75-80%. The coarser stems are then removed and the remaining is ground in a hammer mill to a size particle of 3 mm (-1 mm) (Bustamante, 2008; Casamachin et al., 2007).


Forage management 

Leaf yield

Fresh leaf yield was reported to be very variable and depends on the age of the trees and more specifically on the diameter of the trunk: fresh leaf yield ranged from 6.5 to 33.5 tons/ha in Spain between the first and the 7th year of growth. In france, 17 tons/ha were reported and it was 20 tons/ha in Paraguay in a 4-year old plantation harvested at 30cm from the surface (Benavides, 2000). In Cuba, DM forage yield as high as 10 and 12 tons DM/ha/year were reported (Martin et al., 2014). In Uganda, leaf yield was near 19 tons DM/ha/year for foliage cut at 2 or 6 months intervals (Kabi et al., 2008). The nutritive value being the highest at short cutting intervals (Kabi et al., 2008).


Mulberry trees (Morus spp.) can be propagated by seed and by cuttings, grafting and air-layering (Alonzo, 1999). 

In India, white mulberry (Morus alba) seeds are sown in nurseries. Provided thay have been scarified previously, the seeds germinate within 9-14 days and the seedlings are pricked out when 10-15 cm tall. Prior transplantation of the seedlings (which should occur during the cold season or at the beginning of the rains) the terminal leaves are stripped (cut) (Alonzo, 1999).

Vegetative propagation is generally done with cuttings of 3-4 buds for the production of leaves to feed silkworms. The cuttings are buried for 15-20 cm of their length, including 2 buds. After two months, the rooted cuttings are ready to be planted out in the field. Mulberry trees are planted in a way that eases leaf harvest/pruning. Density of plantation is thus very variable and depends upon the intensity of pruning that can be allowed. 30,000 plants/ha will be adequate for low pruning operations, 7,000-12,000 plants/ha for medium pruning and 2,250-6,000 plants/ha for high pruning intensity (Benavides, 2000). In India, cuttings planted in paired rows have the following spacing: 1.8 m between pairs, 0.6 m within a pair and 0.5 within the row (Alonzo, 1999). After plantation, the field requires occasional weeding (Alonzo, 1999).

Grafting mulberry trees was reported to yield higher amount of leaves, therefore resulting in silkworm cocoons of higher grade (Alonzo, 1999).

After establishment the trees should be pruned from time to time to allow the growth of new shoots, they should also be protected against fire and browsing. The young trees grow quickly (4.5 m in the first 2 years) and coppice readily (Orwa et al., 2009). It begins to bear in the first or second year of cultivation (Ecocrop, 2019).

White mulberry trees could be planted in association with tropical grasses (jaragua, brachiaria brizantha or kikuyu) or with legumes like subterranean clover (Estrada et al., 1998Talamucci et al., 1993).

Harvest and storage

Harvested leaves for feeding silkworms are stored in loose heaps in cool rooms and heating, fermentation and drying-out are prevented (Alonzo, 1999).


In Italy, white mulberry trees have been traditionally planted for combined silvopastoral systems where both cattle and sheep could browse on its higher and lower branches (Talamucci et al., 2000). In Cuba, it was found that survival of trees intented for browsing was better if the trees were sufficiently spaced (over 2- 3 m). The height of cutting was also important for tree survival and it was thus suggested that the stand of white mulberry should not be overgrazed so that height remains above 1 m high (Medina et al., 2004).


It was possible to ensile white mulberry foliage with Guinea grass in Cuba. The optimal proportion being 70:30 mulberry/guinea grass for fermentation process (Ojeda et al., 2006).

Environmental impact 

Climate smart use

In Italy, white mulberry trees planted in association with grasses or legumes and grazed by both cattle and sheep were found to be suited for optimal availability of fodder during hot and dry summers (Talamucci et al., 2000).

Soil erosion and soil improver and reclamation

White mulberry trees are reported to be useful for stabilizing physical soil-conservation structures while leaf-fall provides organic matter to the soil and reduce soil temperature in hot areas. White mulberry trees can be used to reclaim soils, i.e in soils contaminated with lead, white mulberry could be used to remove lead from the soil (Lingyun Zhou et al., 2015; Orwa et al., 2009).

Shade or shelter 

Mulberry trees can be planted for sheltering orchards from wind (Orwa et al., 2009).


In South-Eastern Queensland (Australia) white mulberry (Morus alba) is ranked among the top 200 most invasive plants of watercourses (i.e. riparian areas), native bushland, forest margins and roadsides (Queensland Government, 2011).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

White mulberry (Morus alba) has relatively high crude protein (CP) contents (19.4%) (Feedipedia, 2019). White mulberry aminoacid profile compares to soybean meal and half of the aminoacids are essential ones (Martin et al., 2017). White mulberry foliage has higher macromineral content than foliages from other trees which is a valuable trait (Martin et al., 2017). In particular, white mulberry leaves accumalate calcium and the plant has good vitamin content mainly from C (ascorbic acid, 0.3% DM) and B (nicotinic and pantothenic acids, riboflavin) groups (Martin et al., 2017).


White mulberry is a high yielding forage tree whose foliage has high nutritive value for ruminants (Martin et al., 2017).

Palatability, digestibility

In vitro digestibility of white mulberry leaves is very high (>80%) (Martin et al., 2017; Martin et al., 2014). Degradation rates in goats after 48h were reported to be very high 93% for DM, 96.8% for CP and 85% for NDF (Schmidek et al., 2002). Those rates also depend on leaf maturity: young leaves are twice more degradable than mature ones (Schmidek et al., 2002). In Uganda, rumen degradable CP of white mulberry in steers was high at 96.5–199.2 g/kg CP but was found to decrease with maturity (Kabi et al., 2008). The season also plays a role in white mulberry leaves degradability (Martin et al., 2017).

In order to replace King grass (Pennisetum purpureum * Pennisetum typhoides), white mulberry leaves were combined with 3 other tropical grasses (jaragua (Hyparrhenia ruffa), kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) and brizantha (Brachiaria brizantha). They had higher degradability than the grasses and increasing level of white mulberry leaves in the diet increased the overall real degradability of the DM in the ration (Estrada et al., 1998). 

Digestible nutrients, net energy and protein fractions of mulberry fodder (Morus alba), available for dairy cows. (Boschini-Figueroa et al., 2006

Mulberry (Morus alba) and black sorghum fodder (Sorghum almum) intake in Jersey cattle. (Boschini, 2000)

Herbage biomass production and nutritive value of mulberry (Morus alba) and Calliandra calothyrsus harvested at different cutting frequencies (Kabi et al., 2008).

Nutritional value of mulberry (Morus alba) forage harvested during dry and wet seasons in northern Ethiopia.(Assen Ibrahim et al., 2016)


Dairy cows

Concentrate replacer

Substitution of concentrate feed with fresh mulberry (Morus alba), in the diet of dairy cattle (Boschini et al., 2003).

Feeding value potential of mulberry (Morus alba) leaf meal to replace concentrate mix (Gebrekidan Tesfay et al., 2018)

The nutritive value of mulberry leaves (Morus alba) and partial replacement of cotton seed in rations on the performance of growing Vietnamese cattle. (Vu et al., 2011)

Milk production

Effect of the inclusion of mulberry (Morus alba) on milk production. (Casanovas et al., 2004)

Milk production from an association of Leucaena leucocephala, Morus alba and Pennisetum purpureum CT-115 with irrigation (Lamela et al., 2010).

Evaluation of the use of mulberry (Morus alba) and tilia (Sambucus nigrans) on some productiveparameters in dairy cattle. (Saavedra-Montañez et al., 2018)

Growing cattle

Effect of Morus alba forage on the productive and health indicators of grazing calves (Soca et al., 2010)


Effect of diet supplementation with mulberry (Morus alba.) on liveweight gains of weaned dairy heifers (Jiménez et al., 1998)

Fattening cows

Evaluation of the nutritional quality of mulberry (Morus alba L.) greenchop and silage for fattening cows (Gonzalez et al., 1996)

Meat quality 

Effects of mulberry (Morus alba L) silage supplementation on the haematological traits and meat compositions of Hanwoo (Bos taurus coreanae) steer (Byong Tae Jeon et al., 2012

A study on the analysis of functional components and antioxidative activity in Mulberry (Morus alba) silage (Byong Tae Jeon et al., 2009


Effect of increasing levels of white mulberry leaves (Morus alba) on ruminal dry matter degradability in lambs (Salinas-Chavira et al., 2011)

Substitution of mulberry leaf meal on feed intake, body weight and carcass characteristics of Tigray highland lambs (Tesfay et al., 2018).

he onset of puberty of Pelibuey male hair sheep is not delayed by the short term consumption of Morus alba or Hibiscus rosa-sinensis foliage (Aguilar-Urquizo et al., 2013).

 Morus alba and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis fed as whole-plant supplements to growing lambs grazing on Guinea grass (Ramos-Santana et al., 2010).

Mulberry leaf supplement for sheep fed ammoniated rice straw (Liu et al., 2000).

Nutritional evaluation of mulberry (Morus alba L.) green leaves in sheep and goats (Kantwa et al., 2006).

Effect of feeding mulberry (Morus alba) hay in the rations to pregnant ewes (Prasad et al., 1995).


A comparative study on rate of passage of mulberry (Morus alba L.) green leaves in sheep and goats (Kantwa et al., 2008)

Voluntary intake and digestibility of mulberry (Morus alba) diets by growing goats (Omar et al., 1999).

Intake, nutritional quality, and apparent digestibility of mulberry (Morus alba) and star grass (Cynodon nlemfuensis) in goats (Rodriguez-Zamora et al., 2012)

Digestibility in vivo of the nutrients from mulberry (Morus alba L.) cultivars in goats (Dorigan et al., 2004)

Nutritive value of mulberry (Morus alba) leaves in goats and sheep (Prasad et al., 1991).

Quality and intake of mulberry (Morus alba), ramie (Boehmeria nivea (L) Gaud) and black sorghum (Sorghum almum) fodder in goats (Elizondo-Salazar, 2004)

Supplement/ replacement

Morus alba supplement of Panicum maximum (Gonzalez et al., 2001)

Nutritional evaluation of mulberry (Morus alba L.) green leaves in sheep and goats (Kantwa et al., 2006).

Potential of Morus alba (mulberry) as feed (concentrate) replacement for goats in Puerto Rico (Ramos-Santana et al., 2014)

Effect of partial replacement of dietary protein by a leaf meal mixture containing Leucaena leucocephala, Morus alba and Azadirachta indica on performance of goats

Response of gravid does to partial replacement of dietary protein by a leaf meal mixture of Leucaena leucocephala, Morus alba and Azadirachta indica (Patra et al., 2003)

Response of goats to partial replacement of dietary protein by a leaf meal mixture containing Leucaena leucocephala, Morus alba and Tectona grandis (Anbarasu et al., 2004


Ensiling of mulberry foliage (Morus alba) and the nutritive value of mulberry foliage silage for goats in central Vietnam (Nguyen Xuan Ba et al., 2005)


The use of mulberry (Morus alba) leaf in pig feeding was almost unknown before the end of the 20th century (Chiv Phiny et al., 2003). Since then, numerous experiments described mulberry foliage as a valuable source of protein for pigs that could partially replace conventional soybean meal. It was moreover shown that N digestibility of mulberry leaves was high in pigs (83.6%) and that N retention was about 65% of the N ingested (Ly et al., 2001). Its relatively high fibre content might however be a limiting factor in pig feeding.

Growing and fattening pigs

Mulberry (Morus alba) leaves included at 30% dietary level (DM basis) used in a trial in Cambodia, in comparison with leaves of Tricanthera gigantea,, were reported to have higher in vitro digestibilities and in vivo DM, OM and N digestibilities (Ly et al., 2001). It was suggested that mulberry leaves could be supplemented with dried fresh water fish in order to provide enough methionine to the pigs since mulberry were reported to be deficient in sulphur aminoacid (Ly et al., 2001). In another experiment, mulberry leaves were fed to young growing pigs (14.2 kg mean body weight) at increasing levels : 0%, 15%; 30%, and 50% DM basis) in order to study digestibility indices and N balance in a rice-based diet (Chiv Phiny et al., 2003). Pigs fed on the highest level (50%) of mulberry leaf had lower intake than pigs fed up to 30% mulberry foliage. DM and OM digestibilities were not significantly affected by mulberry leaf inclusion while N balance and N retention increased with mulberry leaf level in the diet. DM, OM and N digestibilities and N balance had a tendency to be higher with fresh leaves, even at 45% of the daily intake of animals, than with leaf meal (Chiv Phiny et al., 2003). It was concluded that mulberry leaves could be fed as the main protein source to growing pigs (Chiv Phiny et al., 2003).

It was shown that fattening pigs could be fed on 15% to 24% mulberry leaf meal and have similar slaughtering weight than pigs finished on conventional diet (Araque et al., 2005; Trigueros et al., 1997).

In Venezuela, mulberry leaf meal was assessed as a source of protein for fattening pigs fed on sugarcane juice. This combination was suggested since sugarcane juice is high in energy but very low in both protein and fibre, two element provided by mulberry leaf meal. This experiment concluded that at 8% or 16% dietary inclusion, mulberry leaf meal allowed to replace 89-91.6% of conventional feed. Animal growth was better at 8% inclusion (Gonzalez et al., 2006). In Cuba, it was shown that 27-30% of total dietary protein from a commercial diet could be replaced by fresh mulberry leaves in fattening pigs with similar animal performance and a better feed: gain ratio over the whole fattening period (Contino et al., 2008d).

Recently, it was reported that at 20% dietary inclusion, mulberry flour increased feed intake of fattening pigs without modifying feed conversion ratio. The pigs had lower backfat and ham weight while meat quality was not affected (Pérez et al., 2017). 


In Mexico, gestating sows could be successfully fed on commercial diet + mulberry fresh foliage. The inclusion of fresh mulberry chopped foliage increased sows intake. It was possible to replace 25% of the commercial diet with mulberry leaves though the highest results were found when the control commercial diet was added mulberry fresh foliage (Muñoz, 2004). In Cuba, it was shown that gestating sows fed ad libitum on mulberry foliage had higher hemoglobine content, better intestinal tissues (increased number of villosities in the intestine) and larger digestive organs than sows fed on commercial diet (Contino et al., 2008c). Gestating sows fed on mulberry leaves ad libitum had similar intake to those fed on commercial diet and their growth and reproductive performance were enhanced: higher number of piglets alive 48h after birth, higher average weight of the litter, higher viability percentage and reduced diarrhoea percentage in the offsprings (Contino et al., 2008a; Contino et al., 2008b).

Mulberry leaf polysaccharides


Mulberry leave polysaccharides have been found to result in better health status in weanling piglets. They were shown to be more efficient than control diet or antibiotics for several parameters like daily feed intake, feed/gain ratio, diarrhoeal incidence (lower), blood glucose, and gut health (lower E. coli, higher lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) (Zhao XiangJie et al., 2015)

Mulberry in pig feeding (Cuba) (in Spanish)


Poultry can be fed white mulberry leaf meal that has been obtained as described in "Process". Inclusion levels commonly studied varied from 5 to 15% with 3 to 9% in laying hens and 4 to 12% in broilers. In free range chickens higher levels ranging from 10 to 30% were investigated.

White mulberry leaf meal is a bulky, fibrous product. This may limit its use in poultry as it hampers animal intake and digestibility and increases passage rate in the digestive tract and yield liquid faeces. Poultry has thus to get used to this feed through an adaptation period (Ly et al., 2017). 

Digestibility, nutritive value

It was shown that DM digestibility of mulberry leaf meal (fed at 30g DM)/kg BW) in hens and broilers was relatively high with 37 and 35% respectively. The digestibility of CP was very good at 73 and 72% while the NDF fraction was 29% in hens and 27% in broilers and the apparent metabolizable energies were 7.62 MJ/kg in hens and 7.52 MJ/kg in broilers (Al-Kirshi et al., 2013). The use of mulberry leaf meal in poultry diet was reported to increase total gastro-intestinal tract weight (including gizzard and caeca) and could be related to an increased digestive activity with inclusion level as low as 10%. Though no difference in pancreas and liver weights could be observed, some steatosis and multiple focal necroses were observed in liver of broilers fed on 30% mulberry leaf meal (Dorigan et al., 2011).

Animal performance

In broilers, several experiments with increasing levels of mulberry leaves indicated that the highest levels (12% -15%-30%) had deleterious effects on animal growth, on feed conversion ratio (Herrera et al., 2014; Olmo et al., 2012; Dorigan et al., 2011; Herrera et al., 2009; Bustamante, 2008Casamachin et al., 2007). However no mortality of morbidity increase was shown at these levels.

In laying hens, inclusion of mulberry leaves at 9% dietary level had no effect on egg production when compared to a traditional diet (Suda et al., 1999).

In quails, it was possible to have better laying percentage from quails fed on 15% white mulberry leaf rather than on control diet however higher level of 20% was deletarious to egg production (Bermudez et al., 2013 cited by Ly et al., 2017). Later, this result could not be confirmed and only 10% white mulberry leaves were reported to decrease laying percentage in quails while the feed consumption and egg weight were not affected (Hermana et al., 2014).

In fowls, it was possible to include mulberry leaf meal at 3% dietary level without affecting animal performance and meat quality in comparison to the control diet. Skin pigmentation was enhanced by inclusion of mulberry (Herrera et al., 2014).

The susceptibility of poultry to the change in diet could be attributed to the fact that commercial lines had been bred for rapid growth on optimal diet (Ly et al., 2017). From the results reported above, it can be concluded that optimal level of white mulberry in diet should be about 10% in broilers, in quails and laying hens and about 3% in fowls.


Fresh leaves

Fresh white mulberry (Morus alba) leaves are well accepted as forage by growing rabbits or by adults in reproduction or not; this was demonstrated in the different parts of the world as in Mozambique (Mc Nitt et al., 1980; Timberlake et al., 1985), in Nigeria (Bamikole et al., 2005), in India (Deshmukh et al., 1989; Rohilla et al., 2000), in Vietnam (Nguyen Quang Suc et al., 2000; Viet, 2006), in Cuba (López et al., 2004), in Venezuela or in Mexico (Ramos-Canché et al., 2011; Nieves et al., 2004)

Used as sole feed, fresh mulberry leaves allow maintenance of adult rabbits (Deshmukh et al., 1989) or an acceptable growth rate for fattening rabbits : about 40% the growth rate of rabbits fed a balanced diet (Bamikole et al., 2005). However, if used as sole feed for rabbit does, fresh leaves are not able to provide a normal reproduction (López et al., 2012).

Proposed ad libitum in addition to a concentrate, fresh (or just wilted) mulberry leaves may represent 30-40% and even up to 60% of the total dry matter intake without significant perturbation of growth of rabbits for Angora wool production. Technical or economical advantages depend mainly of the type and quantity of concentrate chosen in the study. Most generally no significant perturbation was observed for carcass traits or physiological parameters obtained even with a high proportion of leaves (Premalatha et al., 2012; Ramos-Canché et al., 2011; Bhatt et al., 2010; Rohilla et al., 2000; Nguyen Quang Suc et al., 2000; Mc Nitt et al., 1980).

For rabbit does, lower reproduction traits were observed with white mulberry (Morus alba) leaves distributed ad libitum in addition to a restricted commercial diet (60% of the control) than with the control itself or the distribution in the same conditions of Hibiscus rosa sinensis foliage : 5.6 kits born alive per litter vs 7.0 and 7.8 for the 2 other treatments (Garcia-Contreras et al., 2009). However if white mulberry leaves are proposed together with other forages such as sugar cane stalks, and leaves of sweet potato or Neonotonia wightii forage in addition to a local concentrate, reproduction traits were considered as perfectly acceptable (López et al., 2011; López et al., 2004).

Dried foliage

Mulberry (Morus alba) leaves dried in the sun or in the shade under a roof were succesfully used as a feed ingredient for growing meat rabbits or Angora rabbits by numerous authors (Bhatt et al., 2008; Dihigo et al., 2008; Hernandez et al., 2014; Ly et al., 2017; Martinez et al., 2005; Nieves, 2009).

Drying in the sun needs 3 to 5 days while drying in the shade needs about 5 days even during the rainy season in the tropics : temperature 25-32°C and humidity of 80-90% (Montejo-Sierra et al., 2018; Nieves et al., 2008a). Thus in first analysis sun drying seems to be quicker and therefore more interesting. However drying in the shade in practice is more advisable because the maximum leaves production is observed during the rainy season thus a period propitious to foliage harvesting and storage. In addition, during the rainy season sun drying is difficult (extra work necessary by some unexpected rain fall) and not secure, with potential mycotoxins development, an unacceptable risk for rabbits (Montejo-Sierra et al., 2018; Pentón-Fernández et al., 2016; Mezes, 2008).

The most frequently acceptable proportion of dried mulberry leaves in a balanced experimental diet is 25-30% (Nieves et al., 2006; Prasad et al., 2003) but for experimental reasons it was increased up to 60-75% and even 92%, without health perturbation, and with growth performance in relation with nutrients balance in the final diet (Mora-Valverde, 2012; Ramos-Canché et al., 2011; Ferreira et al., 2007)


Silage is not a common presentation of feeds for rabbits (Lebas et al., 1996). However, a study was conducted during 12 weeks with growing rabbits receiving silage as sole feed. It was silage of imperial grass (Axonopus scoparius), or a silage made with 70% imperial grass + 30% meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris), or 30% ramie (Boehmeria nivea) or 30% mulberry leaves (Morus alba); a control group received fresh imperial grass only. Growth rate of rabbits was similar (134 to 141 g/week) with the 3 silages containing 2 types of forages, values significantly higher than those obtained with exclusive imperial grass silage (123 g/w) or fresh imperial grass (109 g/w)(Villa et al., 2016). This demonstrates that even with that presentation (silage), mulberry leaves mixed with an other forage are suitable to feed growing rabbits.

Nutritive value

White mulberry (Morus alba) leaves can be used to feed growing rabbits or Angora rabbits without particular restriction  (provided the nutrient content of the daily ration is respected). As an illustration of this statement white mulberry leaves are sometimes included as control in the study of other raw materials (Vázquez-Pedroso et al., 2016; Premalatha et al., 2012Singh et al., 1984). For reproduction, some additional experiments would be welcome before unrestricted recommendation. Though only few experiments were performed,, the main problem seems more related to classical nutrients balance, than to the presence of a particular group of molecule even if the molecules with known pharmacological activities are numerous in mulberry leaves. This last point should however not be dismissed (Chan et al., 2016; Garcia-Contreras et al., 2009; López et al., 2004).

In the formulation of balanced diet, white mulberry leaves should be used as a forage with relatively moderate fibre content (20-50% NDF), high protein content(15-22% DM) and a high content of digestible energy : 11.4 MJ/kg DM on average, as demonstrated in the table xx. Proteins are highly digestible for a forage (73% on average),  a value which is higher than that of alfalfa (60-65%). These proteins are relatively rich in lysine (120% of requirements) but deficient in sulphur amino acids (86% requirements). In addition, mulberry leaves are very rich in calcium (2 times recommended level) but deficient in phosphorus (Lebas, 2013).




% CP

CP Digestibility

DE MJ/kg

Deshmukh et al., 1993






Prasad et al., 2003





10.84 *

Bamikole et al., 2005





14.90 *

Nieves et al., 2006






Ferreira et al., 2007






Nieves et al., 2008b












Other species 


Silkworm is a monophagous insect that feeds only on mulberry leaves and only during the 25 days of its the larval stage. Mulberry (white or black) leaves have been used for centuries as their unique feed. Many factors in the mulberry composition (and particularly the aminoacidprofile, the level of vitamins C and of vitamin of the B complex) could influence the health status of the larvae and the quality of the cocoon (Bhattacharyya et al., 2016).

Silkworm feeding goes however beyond the scope of Feedipedia and no detailed information is provided here.



Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 28.4 3.4 24.2 35.1 9
Crude protein % DM 19.4 3.9 11.5 25.3 13
Crude fibre % DM 15.7 2.4 13.3 20.2 6
NDF % DM 32.0 9.9 22.5 55.2 9
ADF % DM 19.4 2.8 15.4 22.5 8
Lignin % DM 5.0 1.7 3.9 7.0 3
Ether extract % DM 5.6 2.3 3.0 7.4 3
Ash % DM 13.2 4.2 7.9 22.2 13
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.1 17.4 18.1 2 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 27.4 7.5 22.0 36.0 3
Phosphorus g/kg DM 4.5 1.8 2.4 5.7 3
Potassium g/kg DM 17.5 1
Sodium g/kg DM 2.0 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 5.6 4.0 7.2 2
Zinc mg/kg DM 109 1
Copper mg/kg DM 20 1
Iron mg/kg DM 782 1
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 7.7 1
Tannins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 14.4 12.7 16.0 2
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 72.7 4.9 67.0 79.2 5
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 69.1 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.5 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.0 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 71.4 5.9 62.1 77.6 5

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Alibes et al., 1990; Cheema et al., 2011; Chiv Phiny et al., 2008; CIRAD, 1991; Dongmeza et al., 2009; González-García et al., 2008; Gowda et al., 2004; Kanpukdee Suchitra et al., 2008; Leterme et al., 2006; Makkar et al., 1998; Sen, 1938; Shayo et al., 1999

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:45:22

Datasheet citation 

DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/123 Last updated on May 7, 2019, 16:14