Fresh forage and hay
Pigeon pea forage is a protein-rich forage, but its high fibre content (particularly ADF and lignin) decreases digestibility and limits its potential use. It can be considered as a medium to low energy quality forage.
Digestibility and degradability
DM or OM digestibility of fresh pigeon pea leaves and hay are within the range 50-60% (da Silva et al., 2009). In vivo DM or OM digestibility of pigeon pea hay was found to be close to that of cowpea hay (55-56%), but slightly lower than that of the other legume hays (annual or perennial peanut, soybean) (Foster et al., 2009a). Fed as haylage, pigeon pea was less digestible than the other warm-season legumes (Foster et al., 2009b).
Pigeon pea forage is characterized by low in situ rumen DM, NDF and N disappearance kinetics when compared to other warm-season legumes or poor quality forage hays, with a much lower potentially degradable fraction and much greater undegradable fraction (Carvalho et al., 2006; Pires et al., 2006; Veloso et al., 2006; Foster et al., 2011). This limits its potential use for high producing stock such as dairy cows.
In the USA, yearling cattle intensively grazing pigeon pea in late summer achieved an average daily weight gain close to 1.0 kg/d (Rao et al., 2012).
In Nigeria, fresh pigeon pea was found to be the preferred browse species of 8 offered to sheep (Omokanye et al., 2001). In Zimbabwe, fresh pigeon pea included at 30% of the DM, as a protein source to supplement a poor quality maize stover diet, increased total voluntary DM intake by 20% and total diet OM digestibility from 52 to 61% (Masama et al., 1997). In Thailand, voluntary DM intake was 2.5% of BW (58 g/kg BW0.75) on a diet based on pigeon pea leaves (Cheva-Isarakul, 1992). In Brazil, voluntary DM intake was 3.5% of BW (65 g/kg BW0.75) on a diet based on pigeon pea hay (da Silva et al., 2009). In the USA, when included at 50% of the DM, in a Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum) hay or haylage based diet, pigeon pea as hay or haylage had a detrimental effect on DM intake when compared to other warm-season legumes (Foster et al., 2009a; Foster et al., 2009b).
Goats were found superior to sheep for using pigeon pea foliage (Devendra et al., 1980).
Voluntary DM intake of sheep fed on pods alone was very low (16 g/kg BW), and in vivo DM digestibility was only 44%. Voluntary intake of pigeon pea crop residues by goats was 18% greater than that of sheep (26 vs. 22 g DM/kg BW), and similar to that of young cattle, with low in vivo DM digestibility (47-54%). In the three species, nutrients intake from pigeon pea crop residues fed alone was not sufficient to maintain weight (Whiteman et al., 1980).