Distribution, animal preference and nutritive value of browse species in the Rangelands of Afar, northern Ethiopia
Browse species serve as the main feed sources for pastoralists’ livestock especially during the dry season when herbaceous feed sources are exhausted. The study was conducted in Aba’ala District, Afar Regional State of Ethiopia to assess the indigenous knowledge on browse ecology and use and to investigate the browse selection by animals. Local pastoralists are knowledgeable about the ecology and use, and the change in vegetation structure of browse species. Browse species ranking, according to local criteria of use of vegetation species, indicated that Acacia oerfota was ranked first (3.77) followed by A. etbaica (3.88), Balanites aegyptiaca (4.55) and A. mellifera (4.88). The dominant species in the area were A. oerfota, A. mellifera and A. tortilis. The three most preferred browse species according to the browsing time spent on each of the species were A. oerfota, B. aegyptiaca and A. mellifera for camels; A. mellifera, A. oerfota and A. etbaica for goats and; A. etbaica, Grewia ferruginea and G. tenax for sheep. Analysis of nutritive value of two of the most dominant species, A. mellifera and A. oerfota, revealed that these species have nutritive values by far higher than the minimum requirement of ruminant animals and may be considered for use as a supplement to poor quality feed during the dry season.
Key words/phrases: Acacia species, Browse preference, Diet selection, Nutritive value.