Moringa leaves are a good source of digestible protein, digestible OM and energy for ruminants and, therefore, a valuable protein supplement. In addition, they are a valuable mineral supplementation when minerals are limited or unavailable. The palatability of moringa forage has been reported to be only average. Moringa leaves could successfully supplement low-quality forage diets and improve animal performance. However, when included in ruminants diets to replace concentrates (commercial, sunflower meal, soybean meal), animal performance tended to be reduced.
Moringa leaves are typically fed fresh to ruminants. However, they have been ensiled alone, or in mixtures with Napier grass or sugarcane, to increase the nutritive value of the silage (Mendieta-Araica et al., 2009).
The palatability of moringa is average. Compared to several shrub and tree species in Cuba and Venezuela, moringa leaves were only moderately consumed by cattle, sheep and goats (Garcia et al., 2008c; Garcia et al., 2008d; Toral Perez et al., 2008). However, when used as sole supplement or included into a concentrate in diets for growing goats, the DMI of Moringa oleifera leaves was comparable or higher to that of leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) or gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium) (Ndemanisho et al., 2007; Asaolu et al., 2012).
Moringa leaves are a valuable source of protein for ruminants. Its protein and organic matter are readily digestible in the rumen and/or in the intestine (Makkar et al., 1997; Makkar et al., 1996; Kakengi et al., 2005; Ndemanisho et al., 2007; Gutierrez et al., 2012). However, the available data are highly variable, and reported in vitro and in vivo OM digestibilities range from 40 to 80%, possibly due to the large variability in fibre content. Moringa leaves and stems contain low amounts of tannins with no or low amounts of condensed tannins (Bakhashwain et al., 2010; Murro et al., 2003; Sarwatt et al., 2002; Aregheore, 2002; Makkar et al., 1997; Makkar et al., 1996). The levels of glucosinolates found in moringa leaves were not reported to impair ruminant nutrition (Bennett et al., 2003; Amaglo et al., 2010). However, they contain saponins, which may impair palatability.
Moringa leaves seem to promote rumen microbial protein synthesis due to the substantial contents of readily fermentable nitrogen and energy (Soliva et al., 2005). Rumen in sacco DM degradability of the leaves ranging from 82 to 95.6% have been reported (Garcia et al., 2008d; Ndemanisho et al., 2007; Sarwatt et al., 2004). However, lower values (less than 70%) were observed in different animal species and different pore size of the nylon bags (Gutierrez et al., 2012; Garcia et al., 2008a). In Nigeria, including moringa leaf meal in ruminant diets reduced their metabolizable energy content, OM digestibility and production of short chain fatty acids (Tona et al., 2013).
Moringa leaves have been assessed as a protein supplement for medium or low producing dairy cows fed low-quality forages. Feeding moringa leaves had variable effects on DM intake and milk yield but did not change milk composition. Moringa leaves offered as the sole forage (fresh or ensiled) plus molasses gave the same results as a low quality forage supplemented with concentrate.
Fresh moringa leaves used as the sole forage fed to dairy cows negatively modified the smell and taste of milk and cheese, which could have been due to the presence of glucosinolates in the leaves. Milk from cows fed ensiled moringa leaves did not have off-flavour and aroma, possibly because the ensiling process destroyed most of the glucosinolates, as observed with other forages (Mendieta-Araica et al., 2011a).
Table 1. Utilisation of moringa leaves in dairy cattle
||Creole Reyna (394 kg, after 1 month lactation)
||Moringa leaves supplemented to dairy cows fed with low quality Brachiaria brizantha hay and molasses
||0, +2 or +3kg DM/d
||Hay DMI decreased (8.8 to 7.7 kg/d) when the amount of moringa leaves increased; DM digestibility increased (44 to 57-60%) with 2 or 3 kg moringa supplement; milk yield increased from 3.1 to 5 kg when supplemented. No changes in milk composition.
||Reyes Sanchez et al., 2006
||Zebu x Friesian (347 kg, peak of lactation)
||Moringa leaves compared to cottonseed meal as protein supplement to dairy cows fed with fresh Napier grass
||0 to 1,7 kg DM/d
||Increasing levels of moringa leaves increased forage DM intake (0.545 to 0.552 kg) and milk yield (7.8 to 8.6 kg) but did not change milk composition. The best ratio moringa:cottonseed meal was 40:60.
||Sarwatt et al., 2004
||Brown Swiss (456 kg, 4th week of lactation)
||Fresh or ensiled moringa leaves plus 1 kg molasses compared to Napier grass (60%) plus concentrate (40%)
||DMI of fresh (11.2 kg DM) or ensiled (11.3 kg DM) moringa leaves was higher (silage) or equal (fresh) to Napier grass (11.1 kg DM). Diet DM digestibility with fresh moringa leaves (69%) was similar to that of the Napier diet (64%) but lower than with ensiled (76%) moringa leaves. No milk yield (13.6-13.9 kg/d) and milk composition differences.
||Mendieta-Araica et al., 2011a
||Brown Swiss (467 kg, 4th week of lactation)
||Moringa leaf meal replaced soybean meal in a concentrate (20% soybean meal) distributed to dairy cows fed with 60% low quality forage and 40% concentrate
||20% of concentrate
||Replacing soybean meal with moringa leaf meal did not change forage DMI or diet DM digestibility. Milk yield was lower (12.3 kg vs. 13.2 kg) but milk composition was unchanged.
||Mendieta-Araica et al., 2011b
In growing steers, moringa leaves used as the sole concentrate and fed at 0.59% BW resulted in a gain of 380 g/d (Reyes Sanchez et al., 2006). When moringa leaves replaced a commercial concentrate in growing steers (pure N’Dama or N’Dama x Jersey crossbred) fed groundnut hay, they depressed DM intake, but increased the daily weight gain of both breeds: 625 vs. 458 g/d (N’Dama) and 750 vs. 625 g/d (crossbred), respectively (Nouala et al., 2009).
Moringa leaves totally replaced cottonseed cake for growing lambs fed on low-quality hay. Hay intake (355 vs. 324 g DM), DM digestibility (70 vs. 60 %) and daily weight gain (62 vs. 52 g/d) were all increased (Murro et al., 2003).
Feeding growing goats with moringa leaves as the sole forage, or combined with other legume tree leaves in the diet, had no effect on total DM intake (278-289 g/d) and diet digestibility (76-77%) (Asaolu et al., 2011). Moringa leaves included at up to 50% as the sole supplement in diets based on low quality forage increased daily weight gain and diet digestibility (Aregheore, 2002). Moringa leaves offered to growing goats fed low-quality forage or cassava peels to replace cottonseed cake, sunflower seed cake or a commercial concentrate (250 g/d) had no effect on daily weight gain (Ndemanisho et al., 2007; Sarwatt et al., 2002; Asaolu et al., 2012). Moringa leaves replaced a commercial concentrate (250 g/d) in a diet based on cassava peels without modifying daily gain (21 g/d), which was higher than with other legume tree leaves (Asaolu et al., 2012). Supplementing growing goats fed on grass hay and wheat bran with moringa leaf meal, instead of sunflower cake, resulted in higher meat quality (physical and chemical characteristics together with organoleptic quality parameters, including higher first bite, aroma, flavour and juiciness scores) (Moyo et al., 2014).
Table 2. Utilisation of moringa leaves in goats
||West African Dwarf goats, male & female (7.5 kg)
||Moringa leaves compared to commercial concentrate, gliricidia and leucaena leaves, offered as sole supplement with cassava peel
||Higher cassava DMI with concentrate (195 g/d) than with moringa, gliricidia (188 g/d both), and leucaena (183 g/d). DMI of moringa leaves was higher than that of other species (123 g/d) but lower than that with concentrate (160 g/d). Daily gain with moringa was similar to that of concentrate (20.8 vs. 21.4 g/d), but higher than from other species (~15 g/d).
||Asaolu et al., 2012
||Anglo-Nubian x local Fiji
|Increasing levels of moringa leaves with low quality forage
||20 to 80% in the mixture
||No effects on total DMI. 20 to 50% moringa leaves gave higher daily gain (86 to 79 g/d). Diet DM and CP digestibility increased with 20 and 50% moringa leaves : 58-57% vs. 58% and 68-70% vs. 55% respectively, when compared to the diet without moringa leaves.
||Local Tanzania x Norwegian Landrace male & female
|Moringa leaves compared to other shrubs and included into a concentrate, fed as supplement to a maize stover based diet
||46% moringa leaves into the concentrate
||No difference in DMI and daily gain with moringa compared to other shrubs but higher daily gain with cottonseed cake (33 vs. 22-25 g/d).
||Ndemanisho et al., 2007
||East African male (10 kg)
||Replacement of sunflower meal with moringa leaves in concentrate offered with low nutritive value hay
||0 to 100% replacement of SSC
||Full substitution of sunflower meal with moringa leaves increased total DMI (311 vs. 258 g/d) and DM digestibility (59.6 vs. 50.6 %) but did not affect daily gain (13-16 g/d).
||Sarwatt et al., 2002
Moringa seed cake
In vitro assessment by the gas production method has shown that moringa seed cake may be a better source of digestible protein than moringa leaves (Kakengi et al., 2005). In Barbarine male lambs (4 months, 26 kg), increasing the amount of defatted moringa seed meal (0, 2, 4 or 6 g/d) in a diet based on oat vetch hay and soybean meal (100 g/d) did not change hay DMI (~ 1kg) or DM digestibility (658%). Daily gain was higher with 4 g/d of defatted moringa seed meal compared to the control diet (97 vs. 64 g/d) (Ben Salem et al., 2009).
Moringa leaves extracts
Extracts of moringa leaves obtained with aqueous maceration had in vitro anthelmintic properties on gastrointestinal strongyles common in sheep. A dose of 50 mg/mL of extract reduced egg hatching by 43 to 52% in strongyles and caused 86-90% mortality of larvae. Larvae migration was reduced by 97% at dose rates from 12.5 to 50 mg/mL (Puerto Abreu et al., 2014). Similar results were observed on the parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus in goats, where a moringa leaves extract, obtained by infusion and included at 5 mg/ml, reduced hatching by 90-98% and resulted in 51-70% mortality of larvae (Tayo et al., 2014).