Potential of natural pasture in Shebedino district, Southern Ethiopia was assessed. Based on availability and practice of supplementation of sweet potato vine (SPV) for livestock, 6 representative kebeles were selected from among 3 towns, 4 Degas, 15 sweet-potato-producing (SPP) and 13 sweet-potato-non-producing (SPNP) Kebeles. From each Kebele 30 households (HHs) were randomly selected and interviewed. Grazing land was protected (June-December/2013) and forage samples taken using a 0.5 m × 0.5 m quadrate from three strata. District average land holding was 0.43±0.45 ha/HH, SPP having larger land holding than that of town kebeles. In towns with no grazing land, 40% of HHs feed byproducts to livestock. In SPP and SPNP Dega Kebeles, private grazing land provided 37 to 43% of feed. All farmers feed SPV to livestock and most during dry seasons, although only 20% of the HHs cultivate sweet potato. Feed shortage was 35% of constraints to livestock production followed by low productivity of livestock (19%). At times of critical feed shortage, 50% of town-HHs sell their livestock, the rest prefer searching for supplements as mitigation strategy. Dry matter (DM) and organic matter (OM) yields ((3663±63 and 3187±50 kg/ha, respectively) of the 4th cut was the highest (p<0.05). Upper strata produced the highest (p<0.05) DM (4145±132 kg/ha) and OM (3604±112 kg/ha) yields. Similarly, DM (4145 ±132 kg/ha) and OM (3604±112 kg/ha) yields of upper strata at 4th cut were highest (p<0.05) of all cutting stages and strata combinations. The DM and CP contents of green grass of first cut were 33.77±3.83 and 15.17±0.00 and at the 4th cut 91.57±11.79 and 10.76±0.00%, respectively. In-vitro DM Digestibility of grasses of first cut was 68.11±0.00 and of 4th cut 57.8±0.04%. As family size increased, grazing land and the corresponding feed get reduced, hence decreased livestock productivity. With stage of maturity of the natural pasture, DM and OM yield increased but CP and DM digestibility decreased. Therefore conserving natural pasture as hay need be encouraged.
Key words: Digestibility, natural pasture, sweet potato producing, sweet potato non-producing.
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