Low cost and high dry-matter content are the reasons why cereals play an important role in feeding ruminant animals. Nevertheless, maize forage is poor in protein content, which leads to low quality and nutritive value. In view of the high feed costs of protein supplementations, legumes can be used in livestock nutrition for their high protein content, thereby providing cost savings. In this study, maize (Zea mays L.) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) were intercropped in various sowing densities and their monocropping equivalents were tested to determine the best intercropping system for fresh-fodder yield and quality. Maize was cultivated alone (75 000 plants·ha-1) and intercropped with cowpea as follows: 75 000 plants·ha-1 of maize and 37 500 plants·ha-1 of cowpea (MC1), 75 000 plants·ha-1 of maize and 50 000 plants·ha-1 of cowpea (MC2), and 75 000 plants·ha-1 of maize and 75 000 plants·ha-1 of cowpea (MC3) in rows alternating with maize. The highest dry-matter yield was produced by MC3 (18.8 t·ha-1) and the lowest by SM (16.9 t·ha-1). All intercropped systems had higher dry-matter crude-protein content – MC1 (99 g·kg-1), MC2 (108 g·kg-1) and MC3 (120 g·kg-1) – than the monocrop maize (81 g·kg-1). Intercropping of maize with cowpea reduced the neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber content, resulting in increased forage digestibility. Intercropping maize with cowpea could substantially increase forage quantity and quality, and decrease requirements for protein supplements as compared with a maize monocrop.
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