Open Access

Ethnobotanical studies of fodder grass resources for ruminant animals, based on the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities in Central Punjab Pakistan

  • Nidaa Harun1, 2,
  • Abdul Shakoor Chaudhry2,
  • Shabnum Shaheen1Email author,
  • Kifayat Ullah3 and
  • Farah Khan1
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine201713:56

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-017-0184-5

Received: 26 July 2017

Accepted: 19 September 2017

Published: 4 October 2017

Abstract

Background

Traditional knowledge of indigenous plants is pivotal in developing strategies to feed livestock sustainably in low input systems. Likewise, in Pakistan the indigenous people of Central Punjab have been using their regional grasses as a ruminant fodder for centuries. This study evaluated the indigenous traditional knowledge to ascertain the value of various fodder grasses to optimise their use to feed livestock in Central Punjab.

Methods

The snowball technique was employed to identify key informants who had relevant knowledge about different grasses in the study area. Semi-structured questionnaires, face-to-face interviews and site visits were used for describing the fodder grasses. The data were then analysed by using relative frequency citation and pairwise comparison methods to determine the order of priority among the listed fodder grasses. Furthermore, SPSS 22 software was used for descriptive statistics and interpretation of associations among studied parameters. Microsoft Excel was used to present data as % values and graphs.

Results

Overall, 53 grasses were described with ethnobotanical information regarding their uses for fodder, ethnoveterinary and other purposes. All these grasses belonged to the family Poaceae where the subfamily Panicoideae had the maximum number of 30 grasses. We categorized these grasses into high (A), medium (B) and low priority (C) groups where the group A grasses were reported as not only the most abundant but also the most palatable forages to all ruminants. Their higher demand was reflected by the feeding systems of both ad libitum grazing and feeding after cutting and mixing with other feeds. The study also revealed 37 previously unreported ethnoveterinary uses of these grasses.

Conclusions

The results have reinforced the value of conserving ethnobotanical knowledge, being poorly documented previously, in developing strategies to feed livestock. It indicated the preferred fodder grasses as well as the possible reasons of their preference. The reported data need to be validated for nutritional and health benefits. This information could help the smallholder farmers in association with regional governments to propagate suitable fodder grasses for their use in sustainable livestock feeding to produce safe and healthy food for indigenous communities.

Keywords

Traditional knowledge Central Punjab Fodder grasses Ruminants

Background

The agriculture and livestock industry are playing a predominant role in Pakistan’s economy. Around 43.5% individuals are linked with this industry with its 21% contribution in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In this sector the most protuberant role has been made by the Punjab province in comparison to all other provinces of Pakistan [1].

Geographically Punjab is subdivided into south, north, west and central regions [2]. Amongst all the regions of Punjab the Central region is primarily involved in the production of milk and meat from ruminants. Although this area is blessed with diversified fodders (trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses), grasses are conventionally the most common and reliable fodder source for ruminant animals. The indigenous people prefer to use grass as a fodder because grasses are observed to be more palatable than shrubby fodders by ruminant animals [36]. Moreover the grasses have massive growth abilities around different seasons and these are conveniently more accessible. Therefore, this study aimed to provide comprehensive information on the traditionally used fodder grasses of Central Punjab Pakistan.

Indigenous communities which have been involved in livestock handling possess a significant knowledge about potential forage resources [7]. Many countries (e.g. India, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mexico, China and Uganda) around the world understand the worth of this traditional knowledge and therefore they had documented this classic data about fodder plants from various ethnic groups [710]. Even in Pakistan multiple ethnobotanical studies have been carried out in different cities of Central Punjab but the previous studies were more focussed on the ethnomedicinal values rather than the fodder significance of indigenous plants. Additionally, these studies seemed to be mostly engaged with fodder trees, herbs or shrubs and not with grasses [1115]. However grasses are one of most promising fodder resources of this region. While a few ethnobotanical studies involving grasses were conducted in some regions of Pakistan, their main focus was to evaluate the significance of those grasses for human health [16]. Inadequate records about the traditionally used fodder grasses of this region indicated the vulnerability of particular traditional knowledge to being vanished and overlooked Therefore it is crucial to manuscript this traditional knowledge about the preference for fodder grasses by the rural communities of Central Punjab, Pakistan.

This ethno botanical survey based study not only aimed to describe many traditionally used fodder grasses but also to set out an order of priority on the basis of their usage for different ruminant animals. The study also evaluated the relative abundance, medicinal worth, delectableness, and feeding systems of these grasses for ruminants.

Methods

Study area

The southern boundary of River Jhelum down to River Sutlej surrounds the planes of Central Punjab. This region is comprised of 19 districts which are grouped into 3 agro-ecological zones. Among these 3 zones 6 representative cities i.e. Kasur, Faisalabad, Vehari (Northern irrigated zone), Sargodha (Sandy deserts zone), Gujrat, and Narowaal (Barani zone) were selected. As the northern irrigated zone is the largest zone, maximum numbers of 3 targeted areas were selected from it. These areas are not only the main producers of ruminant milk and meat but also these are distantly apart from each other which helped the collection of diversified ethnobotanical data from this region. In these districts, the remote rural areas were actually targeted due to their reliance on conventional fodder grasses as a feed for raising their ruminant animals (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Map of study area showing all major cities of Central Punjab, Pakistan and encircled cities covered by this study

Ethnobotanical survey and data collection

The primary goal of this survey was to collect ethnobotanical information about fodder grasses from local ruminant caretakers. Before collecting the data, formal ethical permission was obtained from the chairperson of local government and individual informants of selected study areas. The data were collected between the months of March 2014 to February 2015 from remote and less developed villages of targeted cities. A total of 137 informants were chosen by employing snowball sampling technique. The informants included male and female village leaders, shepherds, ruminant caretakers who worked in indigenous farms and some senior domestic animal caretakers in each of the selected areas (Table 1). Group discussions and individual ethnobotanical semi-structured interviewing techniques were used for data collection [17, 18]. The questionnaires were constructed in English. However, for ease in communicating with the local people during interviews and group discussions their indigenous language (different dialects of Punjabi) was used and the answers were translated back to English. The questionnaire included the following questions: (1) Which fodder grasses are most likely to be fed to their ruminant animals? (2) What is the palatability of their chosen grasses? (3) Which part did the animals consume? (4) What are their feeding mode, were they free grazing alone or supplemented or offered as cut grass mixed with other feeds? (5) Do the listed fodder grasses have any ethno veterinary use? (6) What are their other indigenous uses apart from the fodder and ethno veterinary uses?
Table 1

Demography of informants of this study area

Type of Informants

Young aged

Middle aged

Seniors

Total

25–35 years

36–50 years

51–65 years

Local shepherds (Female)

2

5

0

7

Local shepherds (Male)

13

23

7

43

Farmed Ruminant care takers (Female)

2

4

3

9

Farmed Ruminant care takers ((Male)

9

11

3

23

Domestic Ruminant care takers (Female)

11

15

8

34

Domestic Ruminant care takers (Male)

6

12

3

21

Total informants

43

70

24

137

Fodder grass sampling and authentication

For the identification and collection of fodder grass samples, several site visits were made with some knowledgeable indigenous people. They helped the surveyor in identification and collection of particular fodder grass from its habitat. The details of each specimen i.e. date of collection; habitat, local names and flowering periods were also recorded during each site visit.

After their collection, each fodder grass sample was identified by comparing their morphological characters with already available grass specimens in the herbariums of Lahore College for Women University, Lahore and the Quaid i Azam University, Islamabad. Along these two herbaria, online available plant databases like flora of Pakistan (http://www.efloras.org/index.aspx), flora of India (https://sites.google.com/site/efloraofindia/) and some other grass flora identification keys [19, 20] were also consulted for their identification and authentication. Afterward the voucher numbers were allotted to all specimens, which were then submitted to the Botany Herbarium of Lahore College for Women University (LCWU).

Estimation of relative abundance

The most commonly used method of visual assessment was employed for measuring the relative abundance of ethnobotanically enlisted grass species in study area [21]. In this method number of plots randomly selected in study area and the presence of each listed species were counted and recorded. Afterwards percentage relative abundance was calculated by using the following formula;
$$ \mathrm{Relative}\ \mathrm{abundance}\ \mathrm{of}\ \mathrm{species}=\frac{\mathrm{Total}\ \mathrm{percentage}\ \mathrm{Cover}\ \mathrm{of}\ \mathrm{species}\ \mathrm{in}\ \mathrm{all}\ \mathrm{plots}}{\mathrm{Number}\ \mathrm{of}\ \mathrm{plots}\ \mathrm{estimated}}\times 100 $$
The species were then grouped into different categories i.e. Abundant, Common, Frequent, Occasional and Rare (ACFOR) by using relevant scales of abundance (Table 2).
Table 2

Abundance categories and scale of reported grasses

Abundance scale

Abundance categories

Coverage of grass species

+

Rare (R)

<5%

1

Occasional (O)

5–20%

2

Frequent (F)

20–50%

3

Common (C)

50–90%

4

Abundant (A)

90–100%

Data analysis

All the recorded data values were tabulated by using Microsoft excel 2013. Two data analysis methods i.e., Relative Frequency of Citation and Pairwise comparison method were applied to find out the priority order of their grass utilization as described below:
  1. a)

    Relative frequency of citation (RFC)

     
This tool helped us to set up the priority order among the listed fodder grasses. Its value depended upon the numbers of respondents that had mentioned a particular grass species as a good fodder indicating its significance. The RFC was estimated by using the following eq. [22].
$$ \mathrm{RFC}=\mathrm{FC}/\mathrm{N}\left(0<\mathrm{RFC}<1\right) $$

where

FC = number of respondents who stated that particular grass species as a good fodder, N = total number of respondents included in study
  1. b)

    Pairwise comparison method (PC)

     
In combination to RFC another data analysis tool called PC method was also employed to establish a priority order among listed fodder grasses [23]. In this method a comparative matchup chart (Table 3) was constructed between different fodder grasses and then each informant was asked to vote their preferable fodder grass among those. Each species got 1 point if the respondents preferred it over the other fodder grass. The half point was allotted to each of them if they were ranked equal by the respondents. Finally, all points were added for each grass species to predict their priority order of utilization.
  1. c)

    Cluster analysis & descriptive Statistics

     
Table 3

Template of comparative matchup chart used for pairwise comparison for different grasses

Fodder grasses

Species A

Species B

Species C

Species D

Species E

Total votes

Rank

Species A

…………

      

Species B

 

……………

     

Species C

  

………….

    

Species D

   

………….

   

Species E

    

…………

  
For making groups of high and low priority fodder grasses, Hierarchical Cluster Analysis (Squared Euclidean distance method) in the SPSS 22 software was applied to the RFC values. Moreover, descriptive statistical analysis (frequency and cross tabulation) was also employed to find out the association between different parameters of the survey.
  1. d)

    Graphical illustrations

     

Microsoft Excel was used to convert selected data items into different types of graphical illustrations.

Results and discussions

Demography of study area

The informants of this study were divided into 3 major age groups i.e. 25–35 years, 36–50 years and 51–65 years. The maximum number of informants was local shepherds (41%) because they were the key users of these fodder grasses. It was also observed that in this category most informants were males (84%) and the rest were females (16%). Similarly, in farms there were more men (72%) than women (28%). The less number of females as shepherds and farmers showed the cultural pattern of the study area where females were not expected to work in an outdoor environment in this region. Therefore, much higher (60%) number of females was recorded for the category of domestic animal caretakers (Table 1). Regarding their education level, most respondents had completed either 5 years of primary (70%) or 8 years of middle (21%) level education and a few with no education (7%) alongside 2% with incomplete education (Fig. 2). The animal care takers working in farms were different from the domestic animal care takers in terms of their education. Most of those had 8 years of education with additional training in animal handling and hygiene control measures. It was interesting to note that almost all the informers who were relying on wild grasses as a fodder for their animals, were financially not very sound. Therefore, one of the possible reason for them to utilize these grasses, could be that these grasses were a cost free fodder resource for them to use as a feed for their ruminant animals.
Fig. 2

Summary of education levels of informants

Taxonomic diversity of fodder grasses

This study revealed that ruminants of Central Punjab Pakistan were fed on a diversified range of wild grasses. As expected, the grass types and their availability did vary between and within the 3 agro-ecological zones of Central Punjab. However, no distinction for this variation was made between these zones when assessing the data for this comprehensive report on 53 ethnobotanical fodder grasses of Central Punjab, Pakistan (Table 4). It appeared during the taxonomic identification process that all of these documented fodder grass species were members of the family Poaceae which is well known for its fodder significance. The value of Poaceae family as fodders is recognised by various ethnobotanical studies from various regions such as those in Africa, India China and even in the lesser Himalayan and Thal dessert of Pakistan [7, 2428] These ethno botanically listed species belonged to 39 genera which had links with 8 different tribes and 5 subfamilies i.e. Aristidoideae (Aristideae), Arundinoideae (Arundineae), Panicoideae (Paniceae, Andropogoneae), Chloridoideae (Eragrostideae, Chlorideae) and Pooideae (Aveneae, Bromea). Among these subfamilies, Panicoideae was ranked as the top with 30 fodder members and subfamily Aristidoideae attained the least position because it had only 1 member grass being was used as a fodder (Fig. 3). Similar fodder value of subfamily Panicoideae has been well supported by the literature [29].
Table 4

Ethnobotanical descriptions, uses, abundance; focal persons count (FC) and relative frequency citation (RFC) of 53 fodder grasses

Subfamily

Voucher no.

Binomial name

Local name

Palatable to

Fodder part

Feeding method

Ethno veterinary uses

Other uses

RA

FC(n)

RFC

Pooideae

LCWU-0360

Agrostis gigantea Roth.

Lamba gaah

Ca, Sh

Leaves

FG, MF

used against allergic reactions

NR

C

85

0.62

LCWU-0385

Avena sativa L.

Jai

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Aerial

FG, MF

Detoxifier

Part of human food

F

51

0.372

LCWU-0364

Bromus japonicus Thunb.

Joukai

Go, Sh

Aerial

FG, MF

Treat constipation

Crop cover during harsh winters

C

82

0.599

LCWU-0386

Dactylis glomerata L.

Gadu

Go, Sh

Leaves

FG

Diuretic

NR

O

33

0.241

LCWU-0387

Lolium temulentum Linn.

Cockle

Sh, Go

Leaves

FG

Nervous disorders

NR

O

33

0.241

LCWU-0377

Phalaris minor Retz.

Dumbi sitti

Sh, Go

Aerial

FG

Extract helpful to cure animal cough

keep mouse at bay from wheat storage areas

A

76

0.555

LCWU-0389

Poa annua L.

Poa

Ca

Whole

FG

Remove debris from wounded area

NR

F

51

0.372

LCWU-0388

Poa infirma Kunth.

Wakh

Ca, Go

Whole

FG

NR

NR

F

49

0.358

LCWU-0391

Polypogon monspeliensis (L.) Desf.

Malhar

Sh, Go

Aerial

FG

Infusions used to normalize the increased heart palpitations

NR

F

47

0.343

Arundinoideae

LCWU-0361

Arundo donax L

Nara bans, Nal

Ca, Bu

Leaves

FG, MF

Diuretic, Antiseptic

Dried plant parts used as fuel and shelters. Stems also used to make flutes

A

74

0.54

LCWU-0390

Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.

Dila

Ca, Sh

Leaves

MF

Digestive disorders

Used in construction of adobe houses. The mature and dried stems also used in making of musical instruments.

O

31

0.226

Aristidoideae

LCWU-0391

Aristida adscensionis Linn.

Lumb Gaah

Ca, Sh

Aerial

FG

Controls itching

Revegetation, stabilizes sand dunes

F

43

0.314

Chloridoideae

LCWU-039

Acrachne racemosa (Heyne ex Roth) Ohwi

Chinki

Ca

Whole

FG

NR

Grain used by people in food scarcity

O

29

0.212

LCWU-0369

Cynodon dactylon (Linn.) Pers.

Khabbal, Tala, Chaber

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG, MF

Paste of leaves controls dysentery and anti-inflammatory to wounded areas of animal’s body

NR

A

95

0.693

LCWU-0370

Dactyloctenium aegyptium (L.) Wild.

Koora, Madanah

Ca, Sh

Whole

FG

Used to reduce after birth abdominal pains

NR

A

78

0.569

LCWU-0371

Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf

Kusa, Dab

Ca, Bu

Aerial

FG, MF

Digestive disorders, Dysentery

Used as roof covers and in making of brooms

A

76

0.555

LCWU-0373

Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertn.

Chezi

Ca

Aerial

FG, MF

Cure digestive disorders

Used in making ropes and mats

A

91

0.664

LCWU-0392

Enneapogon persicus Boiss.

Jiu

Ca

Whole

FG

NR

NR

F

46

0.336

LCWU-0395

Eragrostis japonica (Thunb.) Trin.

Panghas

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG, MF

NR

NR

F

48

0.35

LCWU-0374

Eragrostis minor Host.

Choti ghas

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG, MF

Digestive disorders

seeds used as food in food scarcity times

A

90

0.657

LCWU-0393

Eragrostis pilosa (L.) P. Beauv.

Nika sanwak

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go,

Whole

FG

Help to cure contusion

NR

O

52

0.38

LCWU-0398

Leptochloa panicea (Retz.) Ohwi

Paja

Ca

Whole

FG

NR

Basketry material

R

33

0.241

LCWU-0399

Tetrapogon villosus Desf.

Sager

Ca

Aerial

FG

NR

NR

R

39

0.285

Panicoideae

LCWU-0400

Apluda mutica L.

Tachuli

Ca

Aerial

FG

Disinfectant, Digestive disorders

used for thatching with combination of other grass materials

R

30

0.219

LCWU-0362

Bothriochloa bladhii (Retz.) S.T. Blake

Palvan

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Aerial

FG, MF

Improves digestion

helps in re vegetation

A

91

0.664

LCWU-0363

Brachiaria ramosa (Linn.) Stapf

Sawari, Jhanda

Ca

Whole

FG

Leaves work as antiseptic

NR

F

51

0.372

LCWU-0396

Brachiaria reptans (Linn.) Gardner & Hubbard

Hausa

Ca

Whole

FG

Leaves juice helps to cure anaemia, also used as laxatives

Sometime seeds used as food

C

84

0.613

LCWU-0397

Cenchrus biflorus Roxb.

Bhurat

Ca, Bu

Aerial

FG

Diuretic

NR

F

52

0.38

LCWU-0365

Cenchrus ciliaris L.

Dhaman

Ca, Bu

Aerial

FG, MF

Diuretic

NR

A

88

0.642

LCWU-0366

Cenchrus pennisetiformis Steud.

Bara Dhaman

Ca, Bu

Whole

FG

NR

Herbicidal

C

80

0.584

LCWU-0401

Cenchrus setiger Vahl.

Kala dhaman

Ca

Aerial

FG

Antiseptic

NR

R

35

0.255

LCWU-0367

Chrysopogon aucheri (Boiss.) Stapf

Khar, Chorkanda

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Aerial

FG, MF

Digestive disorders

NR

A

78

0.569

LCWU-0368

Chrysopogon zizanioides (L.) Roberty

Vetiver, Khuss

Ca

Leaves

FG, MF

Antiseptic, anti-inflammatory

Used in rehabilitation of land, also for making barriers around territories

A

78

0.569

LCWU-0402

Cymbopogon jwarancusa (Jones.) Schult

Khavi, Kathori

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG

Diuretic and improve fertility in bull

Extract used as mosquito repellent

O

28

0.204

LCWU-0372

Dichanthium annulatum (Forssk.) Stapf

Palwan, Murgha

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG, MF

Digestive disorders

Considered herbicidal

A

91

0.664

LCWU-0403

Digitaria ciliaris (Retz.) Koeler

Shamokha

Sh, Go

Whole

FG

NR

NR

O

50

0.365

LCWU-0407

Digitaria longiflora (Retz.) Pers.

Deeta

Sh, Go

Whole

FG

NR

NR

O

45

0.328

LCWU-0408

Echinochloa colona (L.) Link

Jungli chowol

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG

Digestive disorders

Stems are used for weaving mats and sometime used as food.

F

52

0.38

LCWU-0404

Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv.

Sanwak

Ca

Whole

FG

Digestive disorders

Seldom used for reclamation of alkaline soils

O

48

0.35

LCWU-0375

Heteropogon contortus (L.) P Beauv. Ex. Roem & Schult.

Pili, Butto jara

Ca

Aerial

FG, MF

Digestive disorders

handicrafts and thatching

C

73

0.533

LCWU-0376

Imperata cylindrica (L.) Raeuschel

Siru

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG

Fumigant for Piles

biological pesticide

A

83

0.606

LCWU-0405

Ottochloa compressa (Forssk.) Hilu

Chimbar, Phalwan

Ca

Aerial

FG

NR

NR

R

35

0.255

LCWU-0406

Panicum antidotale Retz.

Gharam

Ca

Whole

FG

Disinfectant

NR

O

61

0.445

LCWU-0409

Paspalidium distichum L.

Knot grass

Ca

Whole

FG

NR

NR

O

53

0.387

LCWU-0501

Pennisetum orientale Rich.

Haathi ghaa

Ca

Whole

FG

Oral infections

NR

O

60

0.438

LCWU-0378

Saccharum bengalense Retz.

Kana, Sarkand A

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Leaves

FG, MF

Leaves used to treat oral problems of ruminants

Dried plants used as fuel, thatching and making of writing pens

C

78

0.569

LCWU-0379

Saccharum spontaneum L

Kaa

Ca

Leaves

MF, FG

Root help to relieve in inflammation and urinary problems

Used as paper pulp as well as in making of ropes, baskets and brooms.

C

76

0.555

LCWU-0381

Setaria pumila (Poir) Roem. & Schult.

Ban kangni

Ca

Aerial

FG, MF

Oral infections

Used to tie knot bundles of grain together

A

85

0.62

LCWU-0500

Setaria verticillata (L.) P. Beauv.

Barchittas

Sh, Go

Leaves

FG

Flatulence problem

Used in making of baskets

O

27

0.197

LCWU-0380

Setaria viridis (L.) P. Beauv.

Kangni

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Whole

FG, MF

Seeds used to treat bruises and also effective as diuretic.

NR

A

91

0.664

LCWU-0382

Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench

Jowar

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Aerial

FG, MF

Help to cure wounds, anaemia and constipation

Part of human food and also used to make sweet syrups

C

78

0.569

LCWU-0383

Sorghum halepense (L.) Pers.

Baru

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Aerial

FG, MF

Decotion of root used to reduce the swelling of mammary glands

As fuel

A

86

0.628

LCWU-0384

Zea mays L.

Makai

Ca, Bu, Sh, Go

Leaves

FG, MF

Treat sores and skin problems

Kernel and oil used as food for humans

A

87

0.635

NR Not Reported, FG Free grazing, MF Mixed with feed, Ca Cattle, Bu Buffalo, Sh Sheep, Go Goat, RA Relative abundance, A Abundant, C Common, F Frequent, O Occasional, R Rare

Fig. 3

Number of fodder grass species in each subfamily

Prioritizing fodder grasses on the basis of RFC and PC

The priority determined by the RFC value of 0.693 to 0.197 showed the variable eminence of grasses as a fodder at different sites of study area (Fig. 4). For the sake of data management and comprehensive analysis of listed fodder grasses, they were clustered into high (A), medium (B) and low (C) priority groups on the basis of RFC (Fig. 5). However, when the groups were closely observed it was found that many of the grasses had the same RFC value even within the same group. So the question about their actual priority level was resolved by applying PC method and those fodder grasses which had similar RFC were reorganised in their priority order (Table 5).
Fig. 4

Prioritizing of fodder grasses on the bases of RFC

Fig. 5

Cluster analysis for grouping of ethno botanically used fodder grasses

Table 5

Pairwise comparison for fodder grasses having similar RFC

Fodder grasses

Total gained % points

Rank

GROUP A (RFC =0.664)

Bothiochloa Bladhi

87.5

1st

Dicanthium annulatum

85.5

2nd

Setaria Viridis

84.5

3rd

Eleusine indica

84

4th

GROUP B (RFC =0.554)

Setaria pumila

87

1st

Agrostis gigantea

79

2nd

GROUP B (RFC = 0.518)

Dactyloctenium aegyptium

89.2

1st

Chrysopogon aucheri

88

2nd

Chrysopogon zizanioides

86

3rd

Saccharum bengalense

80

4th

Sorghum bicolor

79.6

5th

GROUP C (RFC = 0.474)

Phalaris minor

92.6

1st

Saccharum spontaneum

90.6

2nd

Desmostachya bipinnata

87.3

3rd

GROUP D (RFC = 0.379)

Echinochloa colona

59

1st

Cenchrus biflorus

55

2nd

Eragrostis pilosa

54

3rd

GROUP D (RFC = 0.372)

Brachiaria ramosa

36

1st

Avena sativa

35.3

2nd

Poa annua

34.6

3rd

GROUP D (RFC = 0.35)

Echinochloa crus-galli

31.3

1st

Eragrostis japonica

30

2nd

GROUP E (RFCs = 0.255)

Cenchrus setiger

27

1st

Ottochloa compressa

29

2nd

GROUP E (RFC = 0.24)

Dactylis glomerata

30

1st

Lolium temulentum

29.3

2nd

Leptochloa panicea

27.3

3rd

The RFC of group A (high priority) ranged from 0.693 to 0.533 and this group comprised of 25 grasses (Fig. 5). However, the group B (medium priority) ranged from 0.445–0.314 with 17 species and group C was extended from 0.285–0.197 RFC, with 11 species of fodder grasses (Figs. 5 and 6). The higher RFC of top most priority groups (A) depicted that these fodder grasses were probably more dominant in the study area and indigenous people had more familiarity with this group of grasses [30]. So it can be said that all those fodder grass species belonging to high priority group A (n = 25) were the most likely and most preferably utilized fodder grasses by the indigenous communities. These fodder grasses were preferred because of their availability, palatability, ability to satisfy animal hunger, ease in availability, positive effects on milk production and shelf life during a dry season (Fig. 7 a-d). Despite the fact that these fodder grasses were valued by local people as a ‘quality’ fodder, it is essentially required to assess the nutritional potential of these fodder grasses for the sustainability of healthy and efficient livestock industry.
Fig. 6

Percentage of species in each group

Fig. 7

Examples of some fields with selected members of high priority fodder grasses group e.g. (a) Cynodon dactylon, (b) Imperata cylindrical, (c) Saccharum spontaneum, (d) Sorghum halepense

Palatability, part used and feeding methods of listed fodder grasses

Palatability is the dietary characteristics which can elicit a specific response from an animal [31, 32]. Statistical analysis of palatability frequency analysis showed that all of these fodder grasses were most commonly palatable for cattle i.e. cumulatively 77% (Table 6). However, the cross tabulated results showed that grasses of group A were palatable to all categories of locally found ruminants i.e. cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat (Fig. 8). The high palatability of group A members for all types of ruminants indicated their more wide acceptance and significance as highly preferable fodders.
Table 6

Descriptive statistics: frequency analysis for palatability, parts used for eating and feeding methods and relative abundance of fodder grasses

Studied parameters

Frequency

Valid percent

Cumulative percent

 Cattle

19

35.8

35.8

 Cattle, Buffalo

5

9.4

45.3

 Cattle, Buffalo, Sheep, Goat

16

30.2

75.5

 Cattle, Goat

1

1.9

77.4

 Cattle, Sheep

4

7.5

84.9

 Goat, Sheep

2

3.8

88.7

 Sheep, Goat

6

11.3

100.0

 Total

53

100.0

 

Fodder part

 Aerial

19

35.8

35.8

 Leaves

10

18.9

54.7

 Whole

24

45.3

100.0

 Total

53

100.0

 

Feeding methods

 Free grazing

30

56.6

56.6

 Free grazing, mixed with feed

21

39.6

96.2

 mixed with feed

2

3.8

100.0

 Total

53

100.0

 

Relative abundance

 Abundant

17

32.1

32.1

 Common

8

15.1

47.2

 Frequent

10

18.9

66.0

 Occasional

13

24.5

90.6

 Rare

5

9.4

100.0

 Total

53

100.0

 
Fig. 8

Association between palatability and priority groups of grasses through cross tabulated method

It appeared that most of these fodder grasses were used as a whole plant i.e. 45%, followed by the use of aerial parts 35.8% and leaves 18.9% (Table 6). The maximum reported percentage for the whole plant use was probably due to the fact that majority of these grasses were small in height, herbaceous in nature with non woody fibrous and shallow roots which were easily pulled out of soil by the animals. However cross tabulation between priority groups and fodder parts indicated that the group A grasses were mostly eaten by their aerial parts. This is because 9out of 25 grasses (i.e., Sorghum halepense, Desmostachya bipinnata, Sacchrum spontaneum, Saccharum bengalense, Chrysopogon zizanioides, Arundo donax, Sorghum bicolor, Agrostis gigantean, Zea mays) of this group were above the 200 cm or 400 cm in heights and these grew well in vigour and density that animal didn’t need to pull up the whole plant to satisfy its hunger (Fig. 9).
Fig. 9

Association between the usage of fodder part and priority groups of grasses through cross tabulated method

The current results revealed that overall all the ethno botanically listed grasses were most frequently fed to ruminant animals through ad libitum grazing (cumulatively 96.2%) (Table 6). Ruminants were probably comfortable with ad libitum grazing due to the fact that they have the natural capability to either avoid the ingestion or utilization of the ingested toxic plants [33, 34]. The provision of grass also plays a valuable role in the production of good quality meat from cattle. Indeed the beef from grass fed animals would be rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids with lower cholesterol content than the beef from animal fed high grain diet [35].It is interesting to report that the members of group A were fed by either grazing or cut and mixed with other type of feeds (Fig. 10). This can be attributed to the high demand and speedy regrowth of these high priority grasses of group A in different regions of this study.
Fig. 10

Association between feeding method and priority groups of grasses through cross tabulated method

Relative abundance of listed fodder grasses

The results of relative abundance showed that most of the listed fodder grasses were abundant in study area i.e. 32.1%, while least number of fodder grasses was found to be rare (9.4%) (Table 6). Also an interesting relevance was observed between abundance and priority levels (Fig. 11). The fodder grasses of group A were mostly observed as abundant (17) and common (8) however the medium priority level fodder grasses (B) were recorded as frequent (10) or occasional (7). The lower priority level fodder grasses (C) were customarily in the occasional (6) or rare (5) category. This revealed that the abundance of fodder grasses directly affects their priority of utilization. The grasses which were more abundant in this study area were more preferably used as compared to the others which were less abundant.
Fig. 11

Association between abundance and priority groups of grasses through cross tabulated method

Ethno veterinary and other indigenous uses of listed fodder grasses

Since ancient times the human beings are using plant resources for medicinal purpose for not only themselves but also their livestock [36]. This use of plants for animal health care is termed as ethnoveterinary which was evolved alongside animal domestication [37] .The use of these indigenous plants to address multiple health issues of their livestock facilitated animal keepers to decrease the unaffordable cost of certain veterinary medicines [38]. This traditional ethnoveterinary practice is playing a compelling role in maintaining animal production around the globe where rural communities mainly rely on livestock for their livelihood [3945].

Among all ethno botanically listed fodder grasses, 43 grasses were found with ethno veterinary significance (Table 4). This data showed that local people not only feed their animals on these grasses but also use them to treat the mild health disorders of ruminant animals. Grasses like Bromus japonicus, Phragmites australis, Cynodon dactylon, Desmostachya bipinnata, Eleusine indica, Eragrostis minor were used to treat the multiple digestive disorders like dysentery, constipation and flatulence problems. However, some served as antiseptics e.g. Arundo donax, Brachiaria ramose, Sorghum bicolor, Panicum antidotale and Chrysopogon zizanioides. The reported ethnoveterinary uses of all grasses were compared with other published data from different regions of Pakistan. Some studies stated similar ethnoveterinary uses for Cynodon dactylon [46, 47] while few documented different ethnoveterinary usages of same grasses like Arundo donax, Saccharum spontaneum, Saccharum bengalense, Sorghum halepense and Zea mays [4751]. However rest of the fodder grasses never reported for their ethnoveterinary use either in Central Punjab or other regions of Pakistan.

Apart from their ethno veterinary value, 25 grasses were also reported for their other indigenous uses (Table 4). Like majority of them are utilized for thatching or making baskets and to cover the crops for protection from harsh weather such as cold winters (Bromus japonicus, Arundo donax, Phragmites australis, Desmostachya bipinnata, Apluda mutica and Heteropogon contortus). However, Phalaris minor and Cymbopogon jwarancusa were interestingly also used as mouse and mosquito repellents respectively.

Conclusion

This ethnobotanical study is the first of its kind which not only describes 53 naturally grown indigenous fodder grasses of Central Punjab Pakistan, but also provides an inventory which manuscript their local names, most commonly used parts for fodder, diversity in palatability and feeding systems, abundance category and unreported ethnoveterinary uses as well. In addition this research also established 3 fodder grass categories based upon their utilization value. The data analysis highlighted the possible motives behind the greater acceptability ratio of high priority fodder grasses i.e. diversity in their palatability for major ruminant species (cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep), abundant availability in the study area and versatile feeding methods (ad libitum grazing or cut, carry and mixed with other feeds). This data enriched study is not only significant for the conservation of ethnobotanical knowledge but also it may help in facilitating the sustainable livestock feeding for ruminants. Subsequently, the information may play a major role in improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers.

Although these high priority grasses have been used for fodder purpose for centuries by indigenous people, the recorded traditional data were never verified on experimental grounds. So there is a chance that drastic climatic changes in the past centuries would have also altered the soil properties which could ultimately affect the nutritional and medicinal value of these grasses. It is quite possible that actual nutritional as well as pharmacological facts and figures would show entirely a different picture about these conventionally used fodder grasses. Hence, a blend of traditional and scientific knowledge is essentially required to produce worthwhile selection criterion for these fodder grasses. Moreover, if some of these grasses show promising nutritional and pharmacological values then the relevant policy makers should take necessary steps for their enhanced but economical cultivation by providing much needed support to the traditional farmers of the study regions. We believe that further support for the small holder farmers who are working hard despite the challenging environment is needed in this region enriched with traditional knowledge. Otherwise, this natural biodiversity of beneficial grasses could be damaged due to over and unregulated grazing risking the achievement of food security in these and other similar neglected regions of great significance.

Abbreviations

A: 

Abundant

Bu: 

Buffalo

C: 

Common

Ca: 

Cattle

F: 

Frequent

FC: 

Focal person count

FG: 

Free grazing

Go: 

Goat

MF: 

Mixed with feed

N: 

total number of informants

NR: 

Not Reported

O: 

Occasional

PC: 

Pairwise comparison

R: 

Rare

RA: 

Relative abundance

RFC: 

Relative frequency citation

Sh: 

Sheep

SPSS: 

Statistical Package for the Social Sciences

Declarations

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed and Dr. Muhammad Zafar, Department of Plant Sciences, Quaid I Azam University Islamabad for authorizing us to use their herbarium.

Nidaa Harun also thanks Higher Education Commission of Pakistan for travel funding to cover the part costs of processing the data and writing the manuscript alongside Abdul Shakoor Chaudhry at Newcastle University, UK.

Funding

No external funding resources were available for this particular study. All project costs were managed by either personally or resources of LCWU Pakistan.

Availability of data and materials

Voucher specimens were submitted to the Herbarium of LCWU Pakistan for forthcoming uses (Table 1).

Authors’ contributions

The ethnobotanical survey and fodder grass sample collection was done by NH, SS, KU and FK. NH and ASC did the statistical analysis and wrote the manuscript by providing critical interpretation of the outputs. SS supervised the whole study as well as helped along with FK in the identification of specimens. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Ethical approval was taken from the chairpersons of local government of all study areas of Central Punjab, Pakistan to visit the specific site and collect fodder grass samples. Also we obtained permission from each informant before conducting the interview. However, all the participants were anonymised and so their personal details are not disclosed in this paper.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

Authors undoubtedly declared that they have no competing interests.

Publisher’s Note

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Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Botany, Lahore College for Women University
(2)
School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University
(3)
Department of Biosciences, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology

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Copyright

© The Author(s). 2017

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