Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Palmerston North 4474, NEW ZEALAND.
This PhD thesis consists of nine chapters describing aspects of the subsistence farms of western Nepal in general, and a need-based evaluation of multipurpose fodder trees (MFT) as a source of dry-season forage for ruminants in particular, as a basis for mitigating the current high rate of land degradation and loss of productivity in livestock production systems in the region. Understanding the complex farming systems that provide a living for 65% of the 27.1 million people in Nepal is the key to designing effective programmes of research and development. Evaluation methods include review of past work, farmers group workshops to identify current practice in the use of MFT in Nepal, studies on biomass production of Artocarpus lakoocha and Ficus glaberrima trees older than 50 years in Nepal and the propagation of F. benjamina, comparison of the feeding preferences of sheep for alternative browse species, and study of the nutritive value of alternative forage diets for lactating buffalo.
Reviews showed 2.2 million cattle and 1 million buffalo are an extra burden to steep land where productivity is declining at the rate of 1.25% per year. Indigenous knowledge identified Ficus glaberrima with its three varieties (Maghe, Chaite and Jethe), A. lakoocha, F. benjamina and Bassia butyracea as the best four MFT for renovating degraded lands. A survey study showed significantly higher dry matter (DM) production by F. glaberrima than A. lakoocha (154 vs 91 kg DM/tree/year) during dry periods at low altitude (800-1000m). There was no significant difference in production of fat-corrected milk (FCM) between buffalos eating A. lakoocha, F.glaberrima or a diet of 53% straw and 47% F. glaberrima (DM basis). Metabolisable energy balance (MJ ME/day) was greater in Artocarpus than Ficus, with the mixed diet intermediate (+1.60 , -0.34 and -12.94 MJ ME/buffalo/day respectively, relative to requirements, P=0.0318). When fed together in an indoor trial, poplar (48% = 106 g DM/sheep/day) and willow (43% = 95 g DM/sheep/day) were preferred to Ficus benjamina (8% = 18 g DM/sheep/day) by sheep, reflecting the greater maturity and structural strength of leaves of Ficus.
These results are used to develop recommendations for choice of MFT species And management strategies to improve the sustainability and productivity of livestock systems incorporating fodder trees.