On-Farm Evaluation and Use of Sunn Hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) legume to Improve Sustainable Meat Goat Production and Health in Southern USA
Summary: Forage-based year-round grazing is feasible in Alabama and Southeastern USA through utilization of cool- and warm-season forages. This can be achieved by allowing for as much grazing as possible throughout the year. A series of experiments were conducted at the Caprine Research and Education Unit in George Washigton Carver Agricultural Experiment Station in Tuskegee University to develop and demonstrate a profitable and sustainable year-round forage based production system with sunn hemp (SH), Bermudagrass (BG), and SH+BG combined systems in the summer-fall followed by a winter wheat forage system for the Southeastern U.S. during the last 1 year. The results indicated that animals on SH and SH + BG combinations grew significantly faster and reached expected slaughter weight in less time when compared to BG pasture systems. The SH in the summer and fall followed by winter wheat grazing systems were the most productive with regards to biomass production. This is probably due to higher nutritive values of SH forage diets throughout the year. Soil and forage nutrient contents, and economic benefits will be reported in the future. Raising goats on SH was the least expensive system in terms of inputs required and seems profitable.
- 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 sunn 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.
Please see attached file.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We feel using proper legume forages such as SH for summer grazing followed by winter forages (e.g. winter wheat) can provide for year-round foraging. However, combinations of forages used for grazing should be selected to optimize animal performance, enhance soil properties and reduce methane or ammonia emission from feces while reducing dependency on petrochemical fertilizer. We are hoping that combining legume forages with grass cropping systems will increase protein output as well as restore N in the soil, thus reducing dependency on petroleum-based fertilizer.
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