Evaluation of the agronomic, utilization, nutritive and feeding value of Desho Grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum)
This study comprised of field survey, agronomic trial, laboratory and animal evaluation of desho grass. A total of 240 households (hh) were involved in the field survey conducted to assess the status of desho grass production and utilization in Burie Zuria and Doyogena districts, with the use of pre-tested and semi- structured questionnaire. The grass was planted at mid and highland altitudes using vegetative root splits in randomized complete block design to determine the effects of altitude and harvesting dates (90, 120 and 150 days after planting) on morphology, dry matter (DM) yield and chemical composition of desho grass. Feeding & digestibility trials were conducted using 25 Washera yearling rams with mean body weight of 19.4+1.89 kg in randomized complete block design to evaluate the feed potential of desho grass as a basal diet.Agronomic results revealed that desho grass performs well both in mid and high altitude areas and represent potential livestock feed resource at early stage (90 to 120 days after planting) of feeding.The daily DM intake and mean daily body gain of the experimental sheep showed significant improvement (P<0.05) with increased level of inclusion of desho grass into the basal ration. The digestibility coefficient of DM, OM, CP, NDF and ADF were significantly different (P<0.05) among the treatments (in the order of T1<T2<T3<T4<T5). The result of the feeding trial indicated that desho grass hay could safely be included at 50-100% into small ruminant basal ration at the expense of natural pasture hay in Ethiopia. The grass performed well in both mid and highlands, multifunctional in use and appropriate for smallholder farming systems of the country.