On-Farm Evaluation and Use of Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) legume to Improve Sustainable Meat Goat Production and Health in Southern USA

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2014: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/14/2018
Grant Recipient: Tuskegee University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Byeng ryel Min
Tuskegee University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: annual ryegrass, grass (misc. annual), grass (misc. perennial), hay, sunn hemp
  • Animals: goats


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, grazing - continuous
  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Statement of Problem            

    Limited resource goat producers may make negligible or no money when cost of production increases with the fluctuating market price for goats and goat products. The chance of making a good profit for limited resource producers remains low as their herd size is usually small. Increasing the productivity, quality, and production duration of the existing pasture will provide a better feeding option and diminish the requirement of supplementary feeding. This will make the system economically more viable compared to that associated with low productive pastures. Also, when the pastureland is more productive, producers will be able to hold more animal unit per acre and augment their profits. Due to the low nutritive value of warm-season grasses, incorporation of warm-season legumes in warm-season grass pastures grazed by growing or lactating ruminants can potentially increase animal performance. Feeding is one of the largest expenses of any goat operation. Goats raised for meat need high quality feed in most situations and require an optimum balance of many different nutrients to achieve maximum profit potential. However, the lack of persistence of the legume component of such pastures has often prevented realization of the promised benefits. Recent studies in Hawaii and early studies in Australia indicate that pigeon pea may have some potential as a grazed forage, but a new study noted the inadequacy of commercial cultivars and showed that the two early-maturing experimental cultivars tested only supported high average daily gain (ADG; 1 kg/d) for about 20 days (Rao and Northup, 2011). Myer et al. (2010) reported that annual peanut did not regrow after defoliation by early weaned calves and the forage quality declined over time resulting in gains of only about 143 kg/ha. Kiesling and Swartz (1997) showed that lambs grazing cowpea pasture had greater ADG than those grazing sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor (L.) and similar ADG to those fed concentrate supplemented a hay ration in dry lot. Recently, our studies (George Washington Carver Agriculture Experimental Station, Tuskegee University) examining the performance of meat goats on new legume forage sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L) has been promising. A noble legume forage sunn hemp grows well during drought and on marginal soils with a pH between 5.0 and 7.5. Sunn hemp is an excellent choice for a summer cover crop for Southern USA because it returns nitrogen to the soil, suppresses weeds and gastrointestinal nematodes, improves soil tilt and water holding capacity, and reduces erosion in fields otherwise left without plant cover.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    • Combining summer legume forage sunn hemp for the summer grazing followed by winter forages can improve animal performance, soil fertility, and profitable year-round grazing system.
    • Combining such as sunn hemp and multi-forages with legumes will increase protein output as well as restore N in soil, thus reducing dependency on petroleum-based fertilizers.

    The specific objectives are:

    • To determine pasture quality and soil fertility changes combining summer legume forage such as sunn hemp followed by winter forage;
    • To determine animal health and performance of goats when sunne hemp is incorporated in the feeding system and when grazing multi-culture grasses, and grasses in combination with legumes;
    • To determine soil quality changes using multi-culture grasses, and grasses in combination with legume forages;
    • To identify and assess economic characteristics and optimum economic return of different goat production (grasses/legumes) systems;
    • To evaluate adaptability (on an experiment station with goats) and demonstrate applicability (on two small farms) of an integrated year-round forage system using commercial goats.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.