The effect of plant age on the chemical composition of fresh and ensiled Agave salmiana leaves
In the first study dry matter (DM), organic matter, crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and soluble carbohydrate (SC) concentrations were determined in whole leaves and the upper and lower sections of whole leaves of the Agave salmiana (Otto ex. Salm-Dyck) plant. The pH and saponin concentration were measured in aqueous extracts from these leaves. The leaves were collected from plants at the young (ca. 12 years old), bud (ca. 14 years old) and mature (ca. 16 years old) stages of growth. The CP level of young Agave (48 g/kg DM) leaves was higher than in leaves from the bud (38 g/kg DM) and mature (43 g/kg DM) stages, and higher in the upper (51 g/kg DM) than in the lower (35 g/kg DM) leaf sections. The leaves at the bud stage contained lower NDF (189 g/kg DM) but higher SC (358 g/kg DM) levels than those of mature (272 g NDF, 247 g SC/kg DM) and young (273 g NDF, 189 g SC) plants. The saponin content of leaves was higher in the mature (11.1 g/kg DM) than in the bud stage (7.5 g/kg DM). In the second study the chemical composition of whole leaves from young, bud and mature micro-ensilaged (3.5 kg as fed) Agave was determined over a 36 weeks fermentation period. Agave silage had acceptable chemical characteristics. As time of fermentation increased, a linear decrease in DM and saponin concentration, a linear increase in NDF and lactic acid levels and a quadratic increase of pH values and ammonia-N concentrations were recorded. Both fresh and ensilaged leaves of the mature and the bud stages were the most desirable maturity stages of Agave to be utilised as feed for ruminants.
Keywords: Agave salmiana, chemical composition, maguey
South African Journal of Animal Science Vol. 38 (1) 2008: pp. 43-50