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Breeders’ knowledge on cattle fodder species preference in rangelands of Benin

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Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine201814:66

https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0264-1

  • Received: 12 February 2018
  • Accepted: 10 October 2018
  • Published:

Abstract

Background

We undertook ethnobotanical and ecological studies on fodder plants grazed by cattle across Benin national area. The study aims to ascertain the top priority fodder plants in order to catalogue the indigenous knowledge regarding their use.

Methods

Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and covered 690 breeders and 40 days of pasture walk. These were analysed using similarity index of Jaccard (IS), relative frequency citation (RFC) and fodder value during pasture walk (FVPW).

Results

We documented a total of 257 fodder plant species, of which 116 recorded during ethnobotanical investigations and 195 during pasture walk. These species belong to 181 genera and 54 families. Both methods shared 52 species. Leaves (58%) and leafy stem (28%) were the most grazed parts of plant. The most common species used as fodder included Andropogon gayanus, Panicum maximum, Pterocarpus erinaceus and Flueggea virosa. The top species with a highest FVPW were Panicum maximum and Pterocarpus erinaceus. A total of 16 species were considered as top fodder plants in Benin.

Conclusions

The wide diversity of plants reported indicates that there is a number of promising fodder species in the flora of Benin. The insight gained in this study relating to bovine feeds could guide in the selection and introduction of feed innovations that could improve livestock production.

Keywords

  • Cattle fodder species
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Pasture walk
  • Top priority
  • Benin

Background

Worldwide, indigenous knowledge about the uses of plants as fodder or medicine played an important role in animal breeding development. Animal breeding is an ancient practice that represents an important subsistence source for low-income households worldwide [1]. In Benin, this activity plays an important role in the local economy and contributes to maintaining rural areas’ activity, their involvement in environment’s quality and poverty alleviation [2]. The considerable headway made in the field during recent decades, in particular the respect of schedules of vaccination campaigns becoming more and more rigorous, breeder awareness and their training on alimentation and the sanitary security of their cattle, and the increase of the credits allocated to them, have led to the steady growth of livestock production. From 1994 to 2013, livestock inventory in Benin increased by 39.18% for cattle and 35.40% for sheep and goats according to the FAOSTAT official database (http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#home). Unfortunately, livestock sub-sector is still confronted by feeding problems [3], related to the availability and the quality of fodder resources. Indeed, natural pastures constitute the basis and, in most cases, the total food resources of ruminants. These pastures are in the majority dominated by annual plant species, characterised by a short development cycle that entirely unrolls in rain season. In this period, pasture contributes to ensure feed of cattle, but during the dry season, the longest season, it exists only the straws which are qualitatively poor and quantitatively deficient [4]. Although Benin is characterised by a vegetation type diversity [5], environmental pressures and strong influence of climatic seasonality limit the productive and nutritional potential of the fodder resources and hinder to maintain flocks, especially during drought periods. So, many breeders devote oneself to the ligneous that dispose leaves and fruits with high protein contents.

To face the unfavourable situation to the breeding development, it is important to capitalise traditional knowledge about fodders. Understanding traditional knowledge of people will result in four major outputs: the database creation of fodder plants consumed by cattle, identification of their properties and optimisation of their uses. To these, we can add the selection of fodders with top priority in stock farming based on their use value. According to Nunes et al. [6], a combination of traditional and scientific knowledges could allow to optimise the selection of useful fodder plants.

Ethnobotanical investigations about ruminants fodder plants have been developed in African countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda [710], and elsewhere in Asia, India and Mexico [6, 1113]. In Benin, there is no overall documentation about the relative importance of these feeds to farmers, although some researchers reported on tree fodders or medicinal tree fodders browsed by ruminants on natural pasture in northern Benin [1416]. This study aims to (i) document fodder plants of natural pastures and state farms in Benin, (ii) assess the local knowledge regarding their use and (iii) select the most important fodder plants. The results of this study will be used to provide a checklist of fodder resources for further anatomical investigation and a possible improvement of food diet in controlled stock farming in Benin.

Methods

Study area

Study was conducted across national area of the Republic of Benin (Fig. 1), located in West Africa between the latitudes 6° 10′ N and 12° 25′ N and longitudes 0° 45′ E and 3° 55′ E. It is bordered by Togo in the west, Nigeria in the east, Atlantic Ocean in the south and Burkina Faso and Niger in the north. The fieldwork was carried out in 23 localities (Fig. 1) and 4 state farms described in Table 1.
Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Location map of Benin with localities and farms covered by this study

Table 1

Description of the state farms

State farms

Area (ha)

Climate zone

Annual rainfall (mm of rain)

Temp.

Soil

Vegetation

Breed type

FEK

380

Guinean

900–1100

29 °C

Ferralitic, clay-gravell

Small islands of forest, savannah

Girolando

FES

3600

Guinean

1123

27.6 °C

Clay

Savannah, forage plots

Lagunaire, Métis Azawak-lagunaire, Borgou

FEB

11,127

Sudano-guinean

900–1100

25 °C

Poorly evolved, ferruginous hydromorphic

Savannah, woodland, forest gallery

Borgou

FEO

33,000

Sudanian

1125

27 °C

Sandy, loamy

Woodland, savannah

Borgou, Girolando, Azawak

Source: MAEP [3]

Temp. temperature, FEK state farm of Kpinnou, FES state farm of Samiondji, FEB state farm of Bétécoucou, FEO state farm of Okpara

The study zone is submitted to three climate types (subequatorial in the southern zone, transition between subequatorial and tropical in the centre zone and tropical climate in the northern zone). The mean annual rainfall fluctuates from 900 to 1400 mm. The vegetation grows under three climate zones. According to Adomou [17], the southern zone consists of savannah, grassland, farmland and fallow intermingled with small islands of closed forest (semi-deciduous and swamp forests). In the centre and northern zones, the natural vegetation is essentially made of a patchwork of woodlands and savannahs with belts of riparian forest along rivers.

The national area contains 2807 plants species belonging to 1130 genera and 185 families [18]. The population of the country was estimated at 9,983,884 inhabitants with the majority involved in agriculture and breeding [19]. The livestock are mainly cattle (2,005,000), sheep and goats (2,413,000), pigs (293,200) and birds (15,900,000) [20]. The cattle production is concentrated at 85% in north of the country and largely dominates those of other animals [21]. The composition of cattle herds is characterised by a predominance of cows which expresses the dairy and breeding vocation that breeders give them. There are two general types of traditional cattle production in Benin: sedentary production in the Guinean region, which accounts for about 20% of the national herd, and transhumant production, which accounts for the other 80%. The exploitation of cattle is based on natural pastures and crop residues [22]. The Peulh own 95% of the national cattle herd and are thus the essential actors for the supply of animal proteins from the country [23].

Data collection

We coupled ethnobotanical study and pasture walk for the data collection. During ethnobotanical investigations, 690 livestock owners were identified with the assistance of specialised animal production technicians for their experience in traditional breeding. Between February 2016 and May 2017, we conducted semi-structured individual interviews using 30 questionnaire slips per locality. The topics covered by the interview were socioeconomic parameters (ethnic group, sex, age, education level, profession, breeding type, size of livestock and source of knowledge) and fodder plants consumed by cattle (wild or crop, preference, parts of plants, collect modes and season of use).

In this paper, we use the term “fodder” to indicate plants grazed by the animals directly on pasture lands and those cut and carried to them. It includes grasses, cereal crops, legumes, shrubs and trees.

The pasture walk was authorised by the Coordinator of PAFILAV (Programme d’Appui aux Filières Lait et Viande) that ensures the management of state farms. It was conducted on the 4 state farms, and the data were recorded following the season (Table 2). On each farm, one herd and one animal were randomly selected by specialised animal production technician regarding state health of cattle. The pasture walk consisted of following the herd in natural vegetation neighbouring the farm between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm and to record plant species consumed by the targeted animal. The observations were repeated during 5 days.
Table 2

State farms and months of prospection

State farm

Dry months in 2016

Rainy months in 2017

Breed type

Kpinnou

January

June

Girolando

Samiondji

February

July

Lagunaire

Bétécoucou

March

September

Borgou

Okpara

April

June

Borgou

Data analysis

Assessment of the taxonomical diversity

The data were organised, summarised and analysed using Excel spreadsheets. All species cited by informants and those recorded during pasture walk were identified using the Analytic Flora of Benin [18] and at the National Herbarium of Benin by comparing with already identified herbarium specimens. Voucher specimens of these plants were kept at the National Herbarium. A value of genus coefficient (GC) was determined by dividing the total number of species over the number of genera. In this study, recorded fodder flora presents high genus diversity when GC ≥ 1. Therefore, when GC < 1, this denotes low genus diversity.

The similarity index of Jaccard (IS) was calculated, and the similarity in fodder species composition between the pasture walk and the survey was compared following Kent and Coker [24]. IS was calculated as follows:
$$ \mathrm{IS}=\frac{c}{a+b-c} $$
where, a is the number of species found only in rangelands, b is the number of species only cited in survey and c is the number of common species in pasture walk and survey. Finally, IS was multiplied by 100 to calculate the percentage similarity in species composition between pasture walk and survey.

Breeders’ knowledge assessment

The difference in richness of grazed species during the drought and rain seasons was found through the chi-square test. The relative frequency of citation (RFC) and percentage of fodder value during pasture walk (FVPW) of each species were calculated.

Relative frequency of citation (RFC) was determined by dividing the number of informants citing a fodder species (FC) by the total number of informants in the survey (N). RFC was calculated by the formula as described:
$$ \mathrm{RFC}=\frac{\mathrm{FC}}{N} $$

The FVPW corresponds to the number of times a species was grazed by the target animal bovine during pasture walk.

A regression procedure was used to examine the correlation between RFC and FVPW. The Pearson correlation coefficient was used for this. Species present on rangelands and having RFC values higher than the mean of RFC were considered as priorities among fodder plants consumed by cattle in Benin.

Results

Taxonomical, morphological and habitat’s diversity of recorded fodder plants

A total of 257 fodder plants of which 116 for ethnobotanical investigations and 195 for pasture walk, with 52 common species, were recorded as consumed by cattle in Benin. These belong to 181 genera and 54 families. The average number of species recorded per family was 4.78, with 8 families (14.61% of the total) having more species than the average (Table 3). The 10 families that contributed 72.86% of all species were Leguminosae, Poaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Combretaceae, Asteraceae, Rubiaceae, Malvaceae, Moraceae, Acanthaceae and Amaranthaceae. The most speciose ones being Leguminosae (76 species, 29.45%) and Poaceae (57 species, 22.09%). These families were followed by Euphorbiaceae (12 species, 4.65%), Combretaceae (9 species, 3.48%), Asteraceae (9 species, 3.48%), Rubiaceae (7 species, 2.71%) and Malvaceae and Moraceae (6 species each, 2.37%). Twenty-seven families (50% of the total) were represented by only 1 species each. The remaining 27 families contributed between 2 and 5 species each (0.77–29.45% of the total). The ratio of the number of genera to the number of species was 1.41; we concluded high genera diversity among recorded species. The richest genera were Desmodium, Hypparhenia and Indigofera with 6 species each. The next most diversified genera in terms of species richness were Andropogon, Crotalaria (5 species each), Combretum, Ficus, Schizachyrium, Senna and Tephrosia (4 species each) followed by Acacia, Albizia, Brachiaria, Commelina, Pennisetum, Setaria, Sida, Terminalia and Vigna (3 species each). The low value of Jaccard’s similarity index (34%) means that the species harvested on pasture are distinct from those indicated by the breeders.
Table 3

Checklist of fodder plant species consumed by cattle in Benin

Family

Species (voucher number)

FVPW

Palatability

Lifespan

RFC

LF

PP

Season

Status

Acanthaceae

Asystasia gangetica (L.) T. Anderson (MAS 937)

6

*

Per

Herb

LS

D

W

Justicia flava (Forssk.) Vahl (MAS 935)

6

***

Per

Herb

LS

D

W

Monechma ciliatum (Jacq.) Milne-Redh. (MAS 603)

13

**

Ann

0.98

Herb

LS

D

W

Nelsonia canescens (Lam.) Spreng. (MAS 1074)

13

**

Ann

Liana

LS

DR

W

Amaranthaceae

Alternanthera sessilis (L.) R.Br. ex Roth (MAS 1502)

0

Per

0.87

Liana

LS

D

W

Amaranthus spinosus L. (MAS 275)

6

**

Ann

Herb

LS

D

W

Celosia argentea L. (MAS 102)

25

**

Ann

Herb

Le

R

W

Pupalia lappacea (L.) Juss. (MAS 551)

13

**

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Anacardiaceae

Anacardium occidentale L. (MAS 288)

0

Per

0.57

Shrub

Le

D

WC

Lannea acida A.Rich. s.l. (MAS 1010)

3

*

Per

0.41

Tree

Le

D

W

Mangifera indica L.

19

**

Per

Tree

Le, Fr

D

W

Annonaceae

Annona senegalensis Pers. (MAS 196)

9

*

Per

2.21

Shrub

Le

D

W

Araliaceae

Cussonia arborea Hochst. ex A. Rich. (MAS 344)

6

*

Per

0.39

Tree

Le

D

W

Arecaceae

Elaeis guineensis Jacq.

3

*

Per

Tree

Le

DR

C

Asclepiadaceae

Periploca nigrescens Afzel. (MAS 297)

6

**

Per

Liana

LS

DR

W

Asparagaceae

Asparagus africanus Lam. (MAS 49)

3

*

Ann

Herb

LS

R

W

Asteraceae

Acanthospermum hispidum DC. (MAS 181)

0

Ann

1.23

Herb

LS

R

W

Ageratum conyzoides L. (MAS 127)

0

Ann

0.28

Herb

LS

D

W

Aspilia africana (Pers.) Adams (MAS 42)

6

*

Per

Herb

LS

R

W

Aspilia bussei O.Hoffm. & Muschl. (MAS 793)

0

Per

0.39

Herb

LS

DR

W

Aspilia helianthoides (Schumach. & Thonn.) Olïv. & Diern (MAS 173)

9

*

Ann

Herb

LS

DR

W

Chromolaena odorata (L.) R.M.King (MAS 96)

22

*

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Launaea taraxacifolia (Willd.) Amin ex C.Jeffrey (MAS 828)

6

**

Ann

Herb

LS

DR

WC

Tridax procumbens L. (MAS 818)

19

**

viv

0.90

Herb

LS

DR

W

Vernonia colorata (WilId.) Drake (MAS 265)

6

*

Ann

Shrub

Le

D

W

Bignoniaceae

Newbouldia laevis (P.Beauv.) Seemann ex Bureau (MAS 62)

3

*

Ann

Shrub

Le

DR

W

Bignoniaceae

Stereospermum kunthianum Cham. (MAS 454)

3

**

Per

0.39

Tree

Le

D

W

Bombacaceae

Adansonia digitata L. (MAS 176)

0

Per

1.23

Tree

Le

DR

W

Bombax costatum Pellegr. & Vuillet (MAS 167)

0

Per

0.26

Tree

Le

D

W

Capparaceae

Cleome viscosa L. (MAS 892)

9

*

Ann

0.39

Herb

LS

R

W

Celastraceae

Gymnosporia senegalensis (Lam.) Loes. (MAS 1038)

13

*

Per

Shrub

LS

D

W

Chrysobalanaceae

Parinari curatellifolia Planch. ex Benth. (MAS 487)

0

Per

0.64

Shrub

Le, Fr

DR

W

Cochlospermaceae

Cochlospermum planchoni Hook.f. (MAS 301)

22

**

Ann

Herb

Le, Fr

R

W

Cochlospermum tinctorium A.Rich. (MAS 875)

9

*

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

W

Combretaceae

Anogeissus leiocarpa (De.) Guill. & Perr. (MAS 640)

25

**

Per

3.16

Tree

Le

D

W

Combretum collinum Fresen. (MAS 789)

0

Per

0.77

Tree

Le

R

W

Combretum mucronatum Schumach. & Thonn. (MAS 302)

16

**

Per

Liana

LS

D

W

Combretum nigricans Lepr. ex Guill. & Perr. (MAS 1221)

0

Per

1.08

Tree

Le

D

W

Combretum paniculatum Vent. (MAS 593)

3

*

Per

Liana

LS

DR

W

Pteleopsis suberosa Engl. & Diels (MAS 700)

13

**

Per

Shrub

Le

R

W

Terminalia avicennioides Guill. & Perr. (MAS 696)

6

*

Per

0.51

Shrub

Le

D

W

Terminalia laxiflora Engl. (MAS 1390)

3

*

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Terminalia macroptera Guill. & Perr. (MAS 229)

3

*

Per

0.13

Shrub

Le

DR

W

Commelinaceae

Commelina benghalensis L. (MAS 52)

0

Per

0.64

Herb

WP

D

W

Commelina erecta L. (MAS 79)

9

**

Per

Herb

LS

R

W

Commelina forskalaei Vahl (MAS 177)

0

Per

0.15

Herb

WP

R

W

Connaraceae

Rourea coccinea (Thonn. ex Schumach.) Benth. (MAS 15)

19

**

Ann

Shrub

LS

DR

W

Convolvulaceae

Hewittia scandes (Milne) Mabberley (MAS 884)

25

*

Per

Herb

LS

D

W

Ipomoea involucrata P. Beauv. (MAS 917)

6

**

Ann

Herb

LS

D

W

Merremia pinnata (Hochst. ex Choisy) Hallier (MAS 553)

12

*

Ann

Herb

LS

R

W

Cucurbitaceae

Momordica charantia L. (MAS 1052)

0

Per

0.64

Liana

LS

D

W

Cyperaceae

Cyperus difformis L. (MAS 738)

3

*

Ann

Herb

WP

D

W

Cyperus rotundus L. (MAS 430)

1

*

Per

Herb

Le

DR

W

Cyperaceae

Cyperus sphacelatus L. (MAS 550)

0

Ann

0.46

Herb

WP

R

W

Discoreaceae

Dioscorea cayenensis Lam. (MAS 146)

3

*

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

WC

Ebenaceae

Diospyros mespiliformis Hochst. ex A.DC. (MAS 628)

0

Per

0.31

Tree

Le

D

W

Euphorbiaceae

Alchornea cordifolia (Schumach. & Thonn.) Müll.Arg. (MAS 915)

6

*

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Antidesma venosum E.Mey. ex Tul. (MAS 386)

13

*

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Euphorbiaceae

Bridelia ferruginea Benth. (MAS 180)

19

**

Per

1.16

Shrub

Le, Fr

D

W

Euphorbia convolvuloides Hochst. ex Benth. (MAS 446)

13

*

Ann

Herb

LS

R

W

Flueggea virosa (Roxb. ex Willd.) Voigt (MAS 607)

47

***

Per

5.14

Shrub

LS

D

W

Hymenocardia acida Tul. (MAS 815)

13

**

Per

0.26

Shrub

Le

DR

W

Jatropha gossypiifolia L. (MAS 330)

3

*

Per

Shrub

LS

D

W

Mallotus oppositifolius (Geisel.) Müll.Arg. (MAS 254)

6

**

Per

0.77

Shrub

LS

D

W

Manihot esculenta Crantz

13

**

Per

0.31

Shrub

Le, tub

D

C

Margaritaria discoidea (Baill.) Webster (MAS 292)

9

*

Per

Tree

Le

DR

W

Phyllanthus amarus Schumach. & Thonn. (MAS 184)

31

**

Per

Herb

LS

D

W

Phyllanthus muellerianus (Kuntze) Exell (MAS 233)

19

**

Ann

1.08

Liana

LS

DR

W

Flacourtiaceae

Flacourtia indica (Burm.f.) Merr. (MAS 212)

6

*

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Lamiaceae

Hyptis suaveolens (L.) Poit. (MAS 541)

6

*

Ann

0.62

Herb

LS, Fl

R

W

Leucas martinicensis (Jacq.) R.Br. (MAS 502)

6

*

Ann

Herb

LS, Fl

R

W

Leg-Caesalpinioideae

Afzelia africana Sm. (MAS 162)

16

***

Per

1.59

Herb

Le

DR

W

Burkea africana Hook. (MAS 163)

0

Per

0.41

Tree

Le

DR

W

Cassia sieberiana DC. (MAS 209)

0

Per

0.77

Shrub

LS

R

W

Chamaecrista mimosoides (L.) Greene (MAS 258)

9

*

Ann

Herb

LS

R

W

Chamaecrista rotundifolia (Pers.) Greene (MAS 416)

16

**

Ann

0.51

Herb

WP

D

W

Daniellia oliveri (Rolfe) Hutch. & Dalziel (MAS 123)

0

Per

1.34

Tree

Le, Fl, Fr

D

W

Detarium microcarpum Guill. & Perr. (MAS 218)

6

**

Per

1.44

Tree

LS

R

W

Dialium guineense WiIld. (MAS 1045)

3

*

Per

Tree

Le

DR

W

Isoberlinia doka Craib & Stapf (MAS 173)

0

Per

0.28

Tree

Le

R

W

Piliostigma thonningii (Schumach.) Milne-Redh. (MAS 322)

31

**

Per

2.83

Tree

Le, Fr

D

W

Senna hirsuta (L.) H.S. Irwin & Barneby (MAS 488)

6

**

Ann

Herb

LS

D

W

Senna obtusifolia (L.) H.S.Irwin & Barneby (MAS 359)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

R

W

Senna occidentalis (L.) Link (MAS 812)

3

*

Ann

Herb

LS

R

W

Senna siamea (Lam.) H.S.Irwin & Barneby (MAS 336)

9

**

Ann

Tree

Le

DR

W

Leg-Mimosoideae

Acacia auriculiformis A.Cunn. ex Benth. (MAS 27)

6

**

Per

Tree

Le

R

W

Acacia nilotica (L.) Willd. (MAS 718)

3

*

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Leg-Mimosoideae

Acacia sieberiana DC. (MAS 259)

13

**

Per

1.54

Tree

Le, Fr

DR

W

Albizia adianthifolia (Schumach.) W.F. Wright (MAS 84)

3

*

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Albizia lebbeck (Schumach.) W.F. Wright (MAS 433)

6

*

Per

0.64

Tree

Le

D

W

Albizia zygia (De.) J.F.Macbr. (MAS 1243)

3

*

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn. (MAS 1319)

0

Per

0.39

Shrub

Le, Fr

DR

W

Entada africana GuilI. & Perr. (MAS 226)

3

*

Per

0.39

Tree

Le

D

W

Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) De Wit (MAS 429)

22

***

Per

1.41

Tree

Le

D

WC

Mimosa pigra L. (MAS 267)

6

**

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Parkia biglobosa (Jacq.) R.Br. ex Benth. (MAS 752)

0

Per

0.90

Tree

Le

D

W

Pithecellobium dulce (Roxb.) Benth. (MAS 1007)

3

*

Per

Tree

LS

D

W

Prosopis africana (GuilI. & Perr.) Taub. (MAS 953)

31

***

Per

2.52

Tree

Le, Fl

R

W

Leg-Papilionoideae

Aeschynomene americana L. (MAS 141)

9

***

Per

Shrub

Le

R

W

Alysicarpus ovalifolius (Schumach.) J.Léonard (MAS 711)

0

Per

1.16

Herb

LS

D

W

Alysicarpus rugosus (Willd.) DC. (MAS 166)

6

**

Per

Herb

Le, Fl

DR

W

Arachis hypogea L. (MAS 94)

0

Per

0.51

Herb

Le

DR

C

Calopogonium mucunoides Desv. (MAS 112)

9

**

Per

Liana

LS

R

W

Centrosema pubescens Benth. (MAS 295)

28

**

Per

0.64

Liana

LS

D

W

Crotalaria comosa Baker (MAS 328)

3

*

Ann

Herb

LS

D

W

Crotalaria macrocalyx Benth. (MAS 393)

0

Ann

0.77

Herb

LS, Fl

D

W

Crotalaria microcarpa Hochst. ex Benth. (MAS 673)

0

Ann

0.90

Herb

LS

D

W

Crotalaria ononoides Benth. (MAS 636)

3

*

Ann

Herb

LS

D

W

Crotalaria pallida Aiton (MAS 109)

3

*

Ann

Herb

LS

D

W

Desmodium adscendens (Sw.) DC. (MAS 617)

6

*

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Desmodium gangeticum (L.) DC. (MAS 615)

6

*

Per

Shrub

Le

DR

W

Desmodium hirtum Guin. & Perr. (MAS 326)

0

Ann

0.67

Herb

LS

D

W

Desmodium ramossissimum D.Don (MAS 524)

3

*

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

W

Desmodium salicifolium (Poir.) DC. (MAS 571)

0

Ann

0.80

Herb

LS

D

W

Desmodium velutinum (Willd.) DC. (MAS 303)

25

**

Ann

0.77

Herb

LS

R

W

Eriosema griseum Baker (MAS 631)

6

**

Per

Shrub

Le

R

W

Glycine max (L.) Merr. (MAS 247)

0

Ann

0.41

Herb

Le

D

C

Leg-Papilionoideae

Indigofera conjugata Baker (MAS 921)

3

**

Per

Liana

LS

D

W

Indigofera dendroides Jacq. (MAS 304)

6

**

Ann

0.77

Herb

LS

R

W

Indigofera hirsuta L. (MAS 159)

6

*

Ann

Herb

Le, Fr

DR

W

Indigofera paniculata Vahl ex Pers. (MAS 118)

0

Ann

0.39

Herb

LS, Fr

DR

W

Indigofera stenophylla Guill. & Perr. var. stenophylla (MAS 573)

0

Ann

0.39

Herb

Le

D

W

Indigofera tinctoria L. (MAS 806)

6

*

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Lonchocarpus sericeus (Poir.) (MAS 363)

25

***

Per

0.90

Tree

Le

R

W

Millettia thonningii (Schumach. & Thonn.) Baker (MAS 276)

3

*

Ann

Shrub

Le

DR

W

Pericopsis laxiflora (Benth. ex Baker) Meeuwen (MAS 821)

6

*

Ann

Tree

Le

R

W

Philenoptera cyanescens (Sehumacb. & Thonn.) Roberty (MAS 762)

0

Per

1.34

Shrub

Le

R

W

Philenoptera laxiflora (Guill. & Perr.) Roberty (MAS 582)

0

Per

1.08

Tree

LS

D

W

Pseudarthria hookeri Wight & Am. var. hookeri (MAS 21)

19

*

Per

Herb

LS

D

W

Pseudovigna argentea (Willd.) Verdc. (MAS 541)

25

**

Per

Herb

LS

R

W

Pterocarpus erinaceus Poir. (MAS 1012)

50

***

Per

5.35

Tree

Le

DR

W

Rhynchosia sublobata (Sehumaeh. & Thonn.) Meikle (MAS 322)

6

**

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Sesbania grandiflora (L.) Poir. (MAS 396)

25

*

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Sesbania pachycarpa DC. ssp. pachycarpa (MAS 903)

9

**

Per

Herb

Le

DR

W

Stylosanthes fruticosa (Retz.) Alston (MAS 669)

13

**

Per

Herb

LS

D

W

Stylosanthes hamata (L.) Taub. (MAS 709)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

DR

W

Swartzia madagascariensis Desv. (MAS 1061)

3

**

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Tephrosia bracteolata Guilt. & Perr. (MAS 914)

16

*

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Tephrosia elegans Schumach. (MAS 149)

3

**

Ann

Herb

LS

D

W

Tephrosia purpurea (L.) (MAS 173)

13

**

Ann

1.54

Herb

LS

D

W

Tephrosia villosa (L.) Pers. (MAS 1033)

13

**

Per

Herb

LS

D

W

Teramnus labialis (L.f.) Spreng. (MAS 571)

3

*

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Vigna racemosa (G.Don) Hutch. & Dalziel (MAS 249)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Vigna reticulata Hook.f. (MAS 332)

3

*

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. (MAS 989)

0

Ann

0.64

Herb

Le

DR

C

Zornia glochidiata Rchb. ex DC. (MAS 963)

3

*

Ann

Herb

LS

DR

W

Loganiaceae

Strychnos innocua Delile (MAS 1053)

0

Ann

0.26

Shrub

Le

DR

W

Malvaceae

Gossypium sp. (MAS 753)

0

Ann

0.26

Herb

Le

R

C

Hibiscus asper Hook.f. (MAS 1162)

13

*

Ann

0.57

Herb

Le, Fl

D

W

Sida acuta Burm.f. (MAS 92)

25

**

Ann

0.64

Herb

LS

D

W

Sida garckeana Pol. (MAS 173)

0

*

viv

0.57

Herb

LS

D

W

Sida linifolia Juss. ex Cav. (MAS 33)

13

*

viv

Herb

Le

DR

W

Meliaceae

Azadirachta indica A.Juss. (MAS 1018)

19

**

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Khaya senegalensis (Desr.) A.Juss. (MAS 436)

0

Per

1.39

Tree

Le

R

W

Pseudocedrela kotschyii (Schweinf.) Harms. (MAS 633)

31

**

Per

2.57

Tree

Le

D

W

Menispermaceae

Cissampelos mucronata A. Rich. (MAS 916)

9

**

Per

Liana

LS

D

W

Moraceae

Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. (MAS 402)

3

*

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Ficus ingens (Miq.) Miq. (MAS 113)

0

Per

0.26

Tree

Le

D

W

Ficus sur Forssk. (MAS 77)

16

**

Per

Tree

LS

DR

W

Ficus sycomorus L. (MAS 169)

0

Per

0.36

Tree

Le

D

W

Ficus variifolia Warb. (MAS 412)

0

Per

0.31

Tree

Le

DR

W

Moringaceae

Moringa oleifera Lam. (MAS 761)

3

*

Per

Shrub

Le

DR

WC

Musaceae

Musa sp. L.

6

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

C

Myrtaceae

Syzygium guineense (WiIld.) DC. var. guineense (MAS 319)

3

*

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Nyctaginaceae

Boerhavia diffusa L. (MAS 611)

6

**

Ann

Herb

WP

D

W

Boerhavia erecta L. (MAS 96)

6

*

Ann

0.31

Herb

WP

D

W

Ochnaceae

Lophira lanceolata Tiegh. ex Keay (MAS 188)

9

**

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Olacaceae

Olax subscorpioidea Oliv. (MAS 256)

6

*

Per

Shrub

Le, Fr

D

W

Opiliaceae

Opilia amentacea Roxb. (MAS 202)

6

*

Per

Liana

LS

D

W

Passifloraceae

Passiflora foetida L. (MAS 436)

13

**

Per

0.57

Herb

WP

D

W

Poaceae

Acroceras amplectens Stapf (MAS 22)

6

*

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

W

Anadelphia afzeliana (Rendle) Stapf (MAS 306)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

R

W

Andropogon chinensis (Nees) Merr. (MAS 921)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

DR

W

Andropogon fastigiatus Sw. (MAS 88)

3

*

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Andropogon gayanus Kunth (MAS 109)

47

**

Ann

5.81

Herb

Le

DR

WC

Andropogon schirensis Rochst. ex A.Rich. (MAS 534)

13

**

Per

Herb

Le

DR

W

Andropogon tectorum Schumach. & Thonn. (MAS 508)

31

**

Per

4.24

Herb

Le

R

W

Poaceae

Aristida hordeaca Kunth (MAS 1033)

9

**

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

W

Aristida kerstingii Pilger (MAS 339)

3

**

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Bambusa vulgaris Schrad. ex Wendel (MAS 1020)

0

Per

0.13

Tree

Le

R

W

Beckeropsis uniseta (Nees) K.Schum. (MAS 1078)

0

Ann

0.33

Herb

Le

D

W

Brachiaria deflexa (Schumach.) Robyns (MAS 1001)

6

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Brachiaria mutica (Forssk.) Stapf (MAS 444)

19

**

Per

Herb

WP

D

W

Brachiaria ruziziensis Germain & Evrard (MAS 757)

13

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Ctenium elegans Kunth (MAS 43)

3

*

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Dactyloctenium aegyptium (L.) Wild. (755)

9

**

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Digitaria horizontalis Wild. (MAS 453)

13

**

Ann

2.29

Herb

Le

D

WC

Eleusine indica Gaertn. (MAS 1073)

0

Ann

0.39

Herb

Le

D

W

Elionurus elegans Kunth (MAS 523)

3

*

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Elymandra androphila (Stapf) Stapf (MAS 771)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Eragrostis aspera (Jacq.) Nees (MAS 343)

0

Ann

0.57

Herb

Le

D

W

Euclasta condylotricha (Steud.) Stapf (MAS 1065)

0

Ann

0.26

Herb

Le

D

W

Heteropogon contortus (L.) P.Beauv. (MAS 817)

0

Per

0.15

Herb

WP

D

W

Hypparhenia barteri (Rack.) Stapf (MAS 117)

19

**

Ann

Herb

Le

R

W

Hypparhenia cyanescens (Stapf) Stapf (MAS 943)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Hypparhenia involucrata Stapf (MAS 418)

0

Ann

0.57

Herb

Le

DR

W

Hypparhenia mutica Clayton (MAS 1017)

6

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Hypparhenia rufa (Nees) Stapf (MAS 713)

0

Per

0.64

Herb

Le

R

W

Hypparhenia subplumosa Stapf (MAS 602)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Imperata cylindrica (L.) P.Beauv. (MAS 337)

13

***

Per

1.16

Herb

WP

DR

W

Loudetia togoensis (Pilg.) C.E.Hubbard (MAS 114)

3

*

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

W

Microchloa indica (L.) P.Beauv. (MAS 504)

0

Ann

0.57

Herb

Le

D

W

Monocymbium ceresiiforme (Nees) Stapf (MAS 1013)

8

***

Ann

Herb

Le

R

W

Oryza sativa L. (MAS 203)

0

Ann

0.90

Herb

Le

R

C

Panicum maximum Jacq. (MAS 93

50

***

Ann

5.45

Herb

Le

D

WC

Panicum repens L. (MAS)

6

**

Per

Herb

Le

R

WC

Paspalum scrobiculatum L. (MAS 104)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Poaceae

Paspalum vaginatum Sw. (MAS 26)

19

*

Per

0.31

Herb

Le

R

W

Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br. (MAS 710)

13

*

Ann

Herb

Le

R

W

Pennisetum pedicellatum Trin. (MAS 309)

19

*

Ann

0.26

Herb

Le

D

W

Pennisetum polystachion (L.) Schult. (MAS 421)

13

*

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Rottboellia cochinchinensis (Lour.) (MAS 205)

13

*

Per

Herb

Le

R

W

Saccharum officinarum L. (MAS 630)

0

Per

0.39

Herb

Le

R

WC

Schizachyrium brevifolium (Sw.) Nees (MAS 208)

9

*

Per

Herb

Le

R

W

Schizachyrium platyphyllum (Franch.) Stapf (MAS)

9

*

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

W

Schizachyrium ruderale Clayton (MAS 501)

9

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Schizachyrium sanguineum (Retz.) Alston (MAS 1054)

9

*

Ann

Herb

Le

DR

W

Setaria gracilipes C.E.Hubb. (MAS 129)

6

*

Ann

Herb

Le

D

W

Setaria megaphylla (Steud.) T.Durand & Sehinz (MAS 401)

0

Ann

0.31

Herb

Le

R

W

Setaria pumila (Poir.) Roem. & Schult. (MAS 308)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

R

W

Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench (MAS 152)

0

Ann

0.39

Herb

Le

D

C

Sporobolus pyramidalis P.Beauv. (MAS 1044)

3

*

Ann

0.67

Herb

Le

D

W

Stenotaphrum dimidiatum (L.) Brongn. (MAS 142)

3

*

Per

Herb

Le

DR

W

Thelepogon elegans Roth ex Roem. & Sehult. (MAS 744)

0

Per

0.41

Herb

Le

R

W

Tristachya superba (De Not.) Schweinf. & Aschers. (MAS 519)

6

*

Ann

Herb

Le

R

W

Vetiveria nigritana (Benth.) Stapf (MAS 1071)

0

Per

0.13

Herb

Le

D

W

Zea mays L.

0

Ann

0.51

Herb

Le

D

C

Polygalaceae

Securidaca longepedunculata Fresen. (MAS 74)

9

*

Per

0.26

Herb

LS

DR

W

Pontederiaceae

Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) SolmsLaub. (MAS 531)

3

**

Per

Herb

Le, Fl

D

W

Rubiaceae

Gardenia ternifolia Sehumaeh. & Thonn. (MAS 59)

16

**

Per

0.39

Tree

Le, Fr

DR

W

Mitracarpus hirtus (L.) DC. (MAS 346)

13

*

Per

Herb

LS, Fl

D

W

Mitragyna inermis (Willd.) Kuntze (MAS 153)

3

*

Ann

1.03

Tree

Le

R

W

Rubiaceae

Morinda lucida Benth. (MAS 75)

13

*

Per

Tree

Le

D

W

Sarcocephalus latifolius (Sm.) E.A.Bruce (MAS 154)

25

**

Per

0.67

Shrub

Le

R

W

Spermacoce hepperrana Verdc. (MAS 243)

9

*

Ann

Herb

Le

R

W

Spermacoce stachydea DC. (MAS 617)

6

*

Ann

1.03

Herb

Le

R

W

Sapindaceae

Blighia sapida Konig (MAS 139)

6

**

Per

Tree

Le

DR

W

Sapindaceae

Deinbollia pinnata (Poir.) Schumach. & Thonn. (MAS 44)

13

*

Per

Shrub

LS

R

W

Paullinia pinnata L. (MAS102)

25

**

Ann

Liana

LS

D

W

Sapotaceae

Mimusops kummel Bruce ex A.DC. (MAS 409)

19

**

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Pouteria alnifolia (Baker) Roberty var. alnifolia (MAS 211)

6

*

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Vitellaria paradoxa C.F.Gaertn. (MAS 312)

19

***

Per

1.03

Tree

Le

D

W

Scrophulariaceae

Striga hermonthica (DeliIe) Benth. (MAS 66)

0

Per

0.93

Herb

Le

DR

W

Solanaceae

Harrisonia abyssinica R.Br. ex A.Juss. (MAS 231)

6

*

Per

Shrub

Le

D

W

Sterculiaceae

Sterculia setigera Delile (MAS 321)

0

Per

0.64

Tree

Le

DR

W

Waltheria indica L. (MAS 87)

0

Per

0.82

Herb

LS

R

W

Taccaceae

Tacca leontopetaloides (L.) Kuntze (MAS 545)

13

**

Per

Herb

LS

DR

W

Tiliaceae

Grewia cissoides Hutch. & DalzieI (MAS 273)

0

Per

0.46

Shrub

LS

D

W

Grewia villosa Willd. (MAS 718)

6

*

Per

0.90

Shrub

Le

D

W

Triumfetta pentandra A.Rich. (MAS 313)

0

Per

0,31

Herb

LS

R

W

Verbenaceae

Clerodendrum capitatum (WilId.) Schumach. & Thonn. (MAS 362)

19

*

Per

Liana

LS

D

W

Gmelina arborea Roxb. (MAS 411)

19

***

Per

Tree

LS

D

W

Vitex doniana Sweet (MAS 143)

0

Per

0.98

Tree

Le

D

W

Zingiberaceae

Costus spectabilis (Fenzl) K.Schum. (MAS 609)

6

**

Per

Herb

Le, Fl

D

W

Siphonochilus aethiopicus (Schweinf.) B.L.Burtt (MAS 164)

19

*

Per

Herb

Le

D

W

Zygophyllaceae

Balanites aegyptiaca (L.) Delile (MAS 180)

0

Per

0.31

Shrub

Le

D

W

Tribulus terrestris L. (MAS 201)

3

*

Ann

Herb

LS

DR

W

Leg- Leguminosae; FVPW fodder value during pasture walk; RFC relative citation frequency; lifespan (Per perennial, Ann annual); PP plant parts (Le leaves, LS leafy stems, Fr fruits, Fl flowers, tub tubercle, WP whole plant); status (W wild, C cultivated, WC wild and cultivated); palatability (*fairly palatable, **weakly palatable, ***highly palatable), season (D dry season, R rainy season, DR dry and rainy season)

Only 38.74% of species are available during all seasons (perennial species). Concerning their life form, fodder plants include mostly herbs (58%). These were followed by trees (21%), shrubs (16%) and lianas (5%). The majority of these plants were wild (92%) followed by cultivated (5%) while about 3% were reported as wild or cultivated. Fallows and farmlands (79%) were habitat with high proportion of species. The remaining includes the savannah (16%), forest (3%), habitation and meadow (1% each).

Plant parts consumed

Even though major plant parts are significant in the bovine alimentation, leaves were the most commonly used plant part with 58% of citation (Fig. 2). It was followed by leafy stem (28%), flowers and fruits (4% each). However, whole plant was cited in 6% of cases.
Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Proportional contributions of plant parts in bovine food diet

Fodder value about recorded plants

The relative frequencies of citation (RFC) of 116 cited species are shown in Table 3. RFC varies from 1.12 to 5.81%, with 16 species having RFC higher than 1.38 (the average of RFC). Plant species such as Andropogon gayanus, Panicum maximum, Pterocarpus erinaceus and Flueggea virosa which were frequently cited were the four dominant plants used as cattle fodder by the breeders in Benin (Table 3). These were followed by Andropogon tectorum (RFC = 4.24%), Anogeissus leiocarpa (3.16%), Piliostigma thonningii (2.83%), Pseudocedrela kotschyii (2.57%), Prosopis africana (2.52%), Digitaria horizontalis (2.29%) and Annona senegalensis (2.21%). Those with the lowest citation frequencies included fodder plants such as Bambusa vulgaris and Vetivera nigritana (0.12% each).

Percentage of fodder value during pasture walk (FVPW) varied from 3% (52 species) to 50% (2 species) (Table 3). We established 3 groups according to the palatability of fodder: 16 highly palatable, 73 weakly palatable fodder and 113 fairly palatable plants (Table 3).

Selection of priority fodder plants consumed by cattle and their characteristics in Benin

Results from regression analysis showed a significantly positive correlation between relative citation of the species (RFC) and fodder value percentage during pasture walk (FVPW) (r = 0.814; p < 0.001). There was 66.66% of the variation of RFC that were explained by the variation of FVPW (Fig. 3). Species with higher RFC values often had higher FVPW and included Andropogon gayanus, Panicum maximum and Pterocarpus erinaceus.
Fig. 3
Fig. 3

Correlation between relative frequency of citation (RFC) and fodder value during pasture walk (FVPW)

We considered the 16 fodder plants having RFC higher than 1.38% (the average of RFC), as top fodder species in Benin (Table 4). According to local people, only 38% of them were highly palatable (Table 4).
Table 4

Top 16 fodder plants consumed by the cattle in Benin

Species

Family

RFC

FVPW

P

Ls

MT

PP

Properties

1

Andropogon gayanus

Poaceae

5.81

47

**

Ann

Herb

Le

Very good forage

2

Panicum maximum

Poaceae

5.45

50

***

Ann

Herb

Le

Good forage

3

Pterocarpus erinaceus

Leguminosae

5.34

50

***

Per

Tree

Le

Most consumed in drought, increases weight gain

4

Flueggea virosa

Euphorbiaceae

5.14

47

***

Ann

Bushy shrub

LS

Great appetency in drought

5

Andropogon tectorum

Poaceae

4.24

31

**

Ann

Herb

Le

Very good forage

6

Anogeissus leiocarpa

Combretaceae

3.16

25

**

Per

Tree

Le

7

Piliostigma thonningii

Leguminosae

2.82

31

**

Per

Tree

Le, Fr

Good appetency

8

Pseudocedrela kotschyii

Meliaceae

2.57

31

**

Per

Tree

Le

9

Prosopis africana

Leguminosae

2.52

31

***

Per

Tree

Le, Fl

Induces milk production

10

Digitaria horizontalis

Poaceae

2.28

13

**

Ann

Herb

Le

Good forage

11

Annona senegalensis

Annonaceae

2.21

9

*

Per

Shrub

Le

12

Afzelia africana

Leguminosae

1.59

16

***

Per

Herb

Le

Induces milk production

13

Acacia sieberiana

Leguminosae

1.54

13

**

Per

Tree

Le, Fr

Great appetency in drought

14

Tephrosia purpurea

Leguminosae

1.54

13

**

Ann

Herb

LS

Anthelmintic

15

Detarium microcarpum

Leguminosae

1.44

6

**

Per

Tree

LS

Treat diarrhoea, constipation

16

Leucaena leucocephala

Leguminosae

1.41

22

***

Per

Tree

Le

Nutritious plant

RFC relative frequency of citation, FVPW fodder value during pasture walk, P palatability (*fairly, **weakly, ***highly), Ls lifespan, Per perennial, Ann annual, MT morphological type, PP plant parts used, Le leaves, Fl flower, LS leafed stem, Fr fruit

Discussion

Diversity of recorded fodder species

Fodder plants consumed by cattle represent 9.01% of the flora of Benin reported by Akoègninou et al. [18]. Among them, only 23.23% are hold by breeders. This shows their low knowledge level about fodder resources. Locally, the clear distinction between the species harvested on pasture and those quoted by the breeders can be explained by the non-control of the plants by the breeders. In vegetation, they are not concerned about feeding cattle as the resource is available and do not continuously monitor the animals. Except in drought, due to lack of grasses, breeders make the choice to cut the branches of shrubs and trees to allow the animals to feed. This was the same on the farms where the drovers cut branches of species to facilitate grazing on the herd. Complementation of cattle diet in the dry season with woody leaves is a common practice in several tropical countries [2530]. This technique makes it possible to provide supplements and to limit the decline in milk production, but the choice of a well-browsed and productive species is necessary [28]. Among species affected by this practice are Khaya senegalensis, Afzelia africana, Prosopis africana, Pterocarpus erinaceus, Leucaena leucocephala, Piliostigma thonningii, Acacia sieberiana, etc. The nutrient input of ligneous fodder is significant in quantitative terms, for reducing seasonal fodder shortfalls and maintaining the livestock, but it is not enough to significantly improve the nitrogen levels of diets, which is a production-limiting factor [29].

Specific richness obtained was 5.27, 10.12 and 1.70 times higher the numbers reported by Sèwadé et al., Sidi et al. and Sinsin et al. [15, 16, 31] respectively for fodder flora in the country. These differences would be due to the national scope of the present study and the combined effect of ethnobotanical studies and the transit walks, contrary to earlier work which covered only part of the country, the ethnobotanical investigations or based only on tree fodder inventory. On the other hand, if we compare our data with the number of fodder species reported outside Benin, specific richness appeared to be relatively higher or lower. César and Zoumana [32] reported 214 species consumed by cattle, sheeps and goats in savannahs of Côte-d’Ivoire. In southwest China [13] and northeast Brazil [6], it was respectively reported 143 and 136 fodder plant species consumed for cattle. These gaps can only be explained by the same arguments given above. Many of these plant species were widely exploited by livestock in other regions of Africa, for example Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique [7, 3339], and elsewhere in the world [6, 40]. They are species with important nutritious value for ruminants and highly used in cropping systems. We can cite Leucaena leucocephala, Panicum maximum, Andropogon gayanus, Imperata cylindrica, Pterocarpus erinaceus, Cynodon dactylon, Digitaria horizontalis, Anacardium occidentale, Mangifera indica, Anogeissus leiocarpus, Alchornea cordifolia, Chamaecrista rotundifolia, Eleusine indica, etc.

Among 185 plant families represented in Benin [18], 29.18% were recorded as fodder plant families. The most diversified in terms of species were Leguminosae and Poaceae. The importance of these families is not a particularity for the fodder flora, but it is a general characteristic of Benin flora because they respectively represent 14.8 and 9.3% among 2807 species [18]. Our findings suggested high genera diversity among recorded species. Thus, in a context of the species rarity, Benin flora provides the possibility to select a great number of fodder species.

Knowledge about recorded fodder species and use priority by local communities

Though the importance of Leguminosae and Poaceae among recorded plant families is related to the characteristic of Benin flora, this is prominent in the literature, and information regarding the potential productivity and nutritional value is abundant, mainly due to the preference of animals for these two families. Breeders, in permanent touch with their animals, accumulate concurrently day by day the experiences as well on zoo-technique plan as sanitary in order to improve their knowledge on the production and reproduction of animals. Thus, traditional knowledge about fodders of communities should build on the base of their observations and this is orally handed down through generations. Today, they have increased their knowledge and they select great fodders following two main criteria namely quality and availability during the dry season. When we asked factors determining fodder quality, they had cited the palatability, aptitude of the fodder to increase milk production, to treat cattle pathologies, and their ability to fatten cattle. As overall objective of breeders is to sustainably feed cattle in order to improve their production and reproduction, important fodders were selected on the base of these criteria. Indeed, our study revealed Benin breeders preferentially use 16 fodder species that should be considered as priorities. They mostly belong to Leguminosae and Poaceae; Leguminosae being classified as sweet and fattening plants while Poaceae classified as palatable and productive in other regions. These findings are consistent with many studies [9, 4143]. Among the 16 priority species selected, some have already been identified by Sidi et al. [15] as priority fodder plants in northern Benin namely Pterocarpus erinaceus, Afzelia africana, Acacia sieberiana, Piliostigma thonningii and Flueggea virosa. These species were also reported in other regions (Sénégal, Cameroon, Niger, etc.) [25, 27, 28] as priority woody species used by pastoralists in Sudanian zone.

Trees and shrubs represented high proportion among fodders cited by local communities. The preference of breeders for these life forms should be due to their availability in all the seasons but also to the relative low contents of crude protein and some minerals in tropical grass species [6, 32, 44, 45].

The plant part used in animal feed is an important criterion of the nutritional [12, 46] and ecological [47] point of view. The widespread use of leaves for fodder in our study is in accordance with the findings of Ayantundé et al. [48] in southwestern Niger, where leaves are the most widely plant part used for fodder and traditional medicine by the agropastoralists.

Fodder species and sustainable production of cattle in Benin

We think that the valorization and sustainable utilisation of 16 priority fodders could help to improve the cattle production. Among these plants, breeders listed Afzelia africana, Acacia sieberiana, Prosopis africana, Piliostigma thonningii, Digitaria horizontalis, Leucaena leucocephala, Pterocarpus erinaceus, Flueggea virosa, Panicum maximum and Andropogon gayanus as forage providing important nutritional properties with high palatability. Literature informs that this nutritive value hold by these plants is due to their content in total nitrogenous substances, which are mostly important in L. leucocephala, P. erinaceus, A. africana, A. sieberiana, P. africana [48] and P. maximum and A. gayanus [49]. This makes these plants genuine protein banks for feeding of ruminants during the both seasons due to the presence of two types of fodders (annual and perennial). In addition, according to the breeders, some of these fodders hold many medicinal properties. Tephrosia purpurea was recognised as being efficiently used to treat helminthiasis, whereas Detarium microcarpum was cited to address several gastrointestinal disorders notably diarrhoea and constipation. Furthermore, breeders recognised P. africana and A. africana as plants involved in increasing of the production of milk after their grazing by the cow. This knowledge hold by local breeders comes from a deep relation between human and biological resources of its local environment. Volpato and Puri [49] showed the Sahrawi recognise in detail the relations between forage and the taste, smell or health and nutritional properties of camel milk because camel milk was the main output of camel husbandry and a staple food in the Sahrawi pastoral system. Currently, the valorization of the local knowledge related to these species needs further studies in particular phytochemical and pharmacological to confirm medicinal properties, as well as anatomical, to identify their anti-nutritional drivers’ content such as lignins, which block the digestibility of nitrogen in rumen.

Most of top fodders form a component of livelihood strategies in the country because they remain an important source of health care and constitute an essential basis in traditional medicine improvement. They are also valued for their timber and their trade importance. Unfortunately, the large combined and increasing demand for these plants and the consequent increase in the rate of collection negatively affected the wild populations of many species, to the point that some species are now considered to be threatened with extinction. Thus, 2 fodder species among 16 priorities (12.50%) were classified as endangered plant species according to the International Union for Nature Conservation (https://www.iucnredlist.org/) and Adomou et al. [5]. We will cite A. africana and P. erinaceus. This handicaps their sustainable use. Agroforestry species such as Vitellaria paradoxa and Khaya senegalensis benefit from particular management practices such as assisted natural regeneration, seeding or often sapling transplantation within the farmlands [50]. But some species as A. africana seems to be neglected [50]. Urgent conservation measures must be taken for ensuring their sustainability use in Benin.

Pasture production is traditionally unknown in Benin, but forage cultivation is done on national farms [51]. Cultivated fodders have been experimented with but are of little importance in smallholder stock rearing. Fortunately, some fodders are cropped in several state farms such as L. leucocephala, Brachiaria spp., P. maximum and A. gayanus. However, this does not fully ensure their fodder needs for livestock. So the development of a breeding program or improvement of the priority forage species on these farms should be considered. After a promising species has been identified, evaluated and developed into a cultivar by selection or breeding, the seed of the resulting cultivar has to be made available to farmers for testing and use.

Conclusion

The combination of ethnobotanical studies and transit walks constituted efficient means for the documentation of 257 fodder plants consumed by cattle in Benin. Specific richness obtained during transit walk demonstrates the importance of follow-up in identifying fodder plants. In addition, this paper provided the lifespan, life form, most commonly used parts for fodder, in palatability, status, and a listing of priority fodder plants. The 16 top priorities were considered as important fodder resources used in Benin. Further studies are needed including an anatomical evaluation of 16 fodder species consumed by cattle for assessing their digestive capacity.

Abbreviations

Ann : 

Annual

C : 

Cultivated

D: 

Dry season

DR: 

Dry and rainy season

FEB : 

State farm of Bétécoucou

FEK : 

State farm of Kpinnou

FEO : 

State farm of Okpara

FES : 

State farm of Samiondji

Fl : 

Flowers

Fr : 

Fruits

FVPW: 

Fodder value during pasture walk

Le : 

Leaves

Leg: 

Leguminosae

LS : 

Leafy stems

MT: 

Morphological type

Per : 

Perennial

PP : 

Plant parts

R: 

Rainy season

RFC : 

Relative frequency of citation

Temp: 

Temperature

tub : 

Tubercle

W : 

Wild

WC : 

Wild and cultivated

WP : 

Whole plant

Declarations

Acknowledgements

We thank the agents of regional action centres for rural development (CARDER) and state farmers for their outstanding assistance in the conduct of ethnobotanical surveys and pasture walk. We also acknowledge the breeders and farmers who welcomed us and facilitated the investigations and sir Abraham Favi for his assistance for making the map of the study area.

Funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Availability of data and materials

All datasets on which the conclusions of the paper rely made available in the manuscript. The voucher specimens are kept at the Laboratory of Botany and Plant Ecology at National Herbarium of Benin and will be available upon request.

Authors’ contributions

OJMAS, DGH and AAC conceived and designed the research. OJMAS collected the data. AAC and YF provided the botanical identification of the species. OJMAS, DGH and AAF analysed the data. OJMAS wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

All farmers and breeders gave their consent before conducting the interview. The pasture walk was authorised by the Coordinator of PAFILAV (Programme d’Appui aux Filières Lait et Viande) that ensure the management of state farms.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Publisher’s Note

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Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Laboratory of Botany and Plant Ecology, Faculty of Sciences and Techniques, University of Abomey-Calavi, 01 BP 4521 Cotonou, Benin
(2)
Laboratory of Applied Ecology, Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, University of Abomey-Calavi, 01 BP 526 Cotonou, Benin

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Copyright

© The Author(s). 2018

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