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Birdwood grass (Cenchrus setiger)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Birdwood grass, birdwood buffel, cow sandbur, South African pennisetum [English]; aebaed [Arabic]; anjan, anjan grass, dhaman, motha dhaman, moda dhamangrass, kata dhaman, marwar dhaman, kala dhaman [India] (Quattrocchi, 2006).


Cenchrus barbatus Schumach., Cenchrus bulbifer Hochst. ex Boiss., Cenchrus ciliaris var. setigerus (Vahl) Maire & Weiler, Cenchrus montanus Nees ex Steud., Cenchrus montanus Nees ex Royle, Cenchrus quinquevalvis Buch.-Ham. ex Wall., Cenchrus schimperi Hochst. & Steud. ex Steud., Cenchrus setigerus Forssk. ex Steud., Cenchrus triflorus Roxb. ex Aitch., Cenchrus tripsacoides R. Br., Cenchrus uniflorus Ehrenb. ex Boiss., Pennisetum ciliare var. setigerum (Vahl) Leeke, Pennisetum setigerum (Vahl) Wipff, Pennisetum vahlii Kunth) (Quattrocchi, 2006)

Taxonomic information 

Also written Cenchrus setigerus Vahl

Related feed(s) 

Birdwood grass (Cenchrus setiger Vahl) is a tufted perennial grass up to 70-100 cm high with flat or folded leaf-blades, the roots having none or short rhizomes. Its false spike is dense, 1.5-9 cm long, with spikelets 3-4.5 mm long, each cluster containing one to three caryopses (Cook et al., 2005; Ecocrop, 2010; FAO, 2010). A hardy and drought-tolerant grass, Cenchrus setiger is a valuable fodder in dry areas, though it is tussocky and lacks bulk. It is quite palatable and readily accepted by stock. It makes useful hay in areas that can be mown though the yield is not high (FAO, 2010).


Cenchrus setiger is native to East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt), Western Asia (Southern Iran, Yemen, Pakistan) and India, and has been naturalized in the dry tropics and subtropics (Australia). It grows between 30°N and 30°S, at elevations between 500 and 800 m above sea level. Common in open dry bush and grassland, it is very tolerant of drought and heat and adapted to arid and semi-arid climates with a long dry season and annual rainfall as low as 200 mm. Optimal temperatures are 30-35°C but it can also survive frost. Cenchrus setiger responds very quickly to light rains but does not respond well to winter rains. It does well over a wide range of soils. While it prefers light-textured sandy soils, it can be found on gravelly areas, alluvial flats and heavy black clays. It also grows well on alkaline soils and is tolerant to salinity (Cook et al., 2005; Ecocrop, 2010; FAO, 2010).

Forage management 

Cenchrus setiger grows from spring to summer. It matures in eight weeks and seeds heavily. It is not a productive forage and yields range between 0.4 and 2.1 t/DM ha. Once established, it can withstand heavy grazing. To thicken the stand, Cenchrus setiger should be allowed to seed every two to three years (Cook et al., 2005; Ecocrop, 2010; FAO, 2010).

Environmental impact 

Cenchrus setiger is drought resistant, which makes it an excellent forage for improving low rainfall grazing lands. It is of minor value in erosion control although it has been proposed as a barrier against moving sand (FAO, 2010).

Nutritional aspects

Cenchrus setiger is palatable. Its feed value is highest during the pre-flowering stage (65% in vivo DM digestibility), and much lower during the dry season (50%) (Cook et al., 2005).


In steers grazing Cenchrus setiger pasture on sandy plains and dunes in Western Australia, an addition of phosphate resulted in an increase of live weight gain from 30 kg to 50 kg, equal to an increase from 72 kg to 116 kg/ha. A mineral supplement added to drinking water resulted in live weight gains reaching 146 kg/ha in the wet season (Holm et al., 1975 cited by FAO, 2010; Holm et al., 1980).

In the arid zone of Rajasthan, heifers grazing rangeland dominated by Cenchrus setiger and Aristida funiculata gained most weight in August-September, while in May-June the animals lost body weight (Mertia, 1991).


In the arid zone of Rajasthan, Cenchrus setiger carried one sheep to 2.6 hectares in Jodhpur, and one to 6.0 hectares in Pali (FAO, 2010). Cenchrus setiger is one of the species that can be used to reseed the natural grassland in order to increase its carrying capacity (Patnayak, 1980). In the same region, the values for stocking rate, DM production, number of lambs and wool production per hectare were higher in a sown pasture of Cenchrus setiger/Cenchrus ciliaris/Lasiurus scindicus than in a Cenchrus setigerus/Cenchrus ciliaris pasture (Das et al., 1980; Bhati et al., 1983).


No information found (2011).

Nutritional tables

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

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 32.6 3.0 26.0 37.6 41
Crude protein % DM 6.6 0.7 5.3 7.8 43
Crude fibre % DM 39.3 1.5 36.6 44.2 43
NDF % DM 74.2 *
ADF % DM 45.5 *
Lignin % DM 6.6 *
Ether extract % DM 1.2 0.1 0.9 1.5 43
Ash % DM 11.0 2.0 8.4 16.4 43
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.6 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 3.8 0.6 2.0 4.9 41
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.9 0.4 1.3 2.8 41
Potassium g/kg DM 19.0 8.5 4.8 27.2 7
Sodium g/kg DM 2.7 1.8 0.0 4.2 4
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.5 1.7 3.3 2
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 57.4 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 54.9 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.7 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.8 *

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


CIRAD, 1991; Dougall et al., 1958

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:47

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 91.8 1
Crude protein % DM 9.6 1
Crude fibre % DM 28.8 1
NDF % DM 64.7 1
ADF % DM 33.7 1
Ether extract % DM 1.5 1
Ash % DM 13.4 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.0 *

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


CIRAD, 1991

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:45:30

Datasheet citation 

Tran G., 2016. Birdwood grass (Cenchrus setiger). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/481 Last updated on March 29, 2016, 16:42

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)