Ruminant livestock production in sub-Saharan Africa is based on forage as the major feed resources, which of course is highly seasonal with low nutritive quality during dry seasons. Neem leaf (Azadirachta indica) when added to livestock feed has been found to reduce the problem of feed scarcity which are serious problems of the developing world. A 90-day study was conducted to determine the response of semi intensively managed West African dwarf sheep grazing natural pastures to concentrate supplement containing varying levels of neem leaf meal (NLM). Twenty (20) West African Dwarf sheep aged 5 to 6 months with an average weight of 10kg were used in a Complete Randomized Design with animals grouped into four treatments of five replicates each balanced for weight. The animals were allowed to graze on natural pastures predominantly made up of Panicum maximum in the morning and returned to their individual feeding pens after grazing for 5 hours with a daily supplementation of 100g concentrate diet containing varying levels of neem leaf meal at 0, 5, 10 and 15%. Data collected include nutrient digestibility and nitrogen utilization. Results showed that dry matter digestibility decreased (P < 0.05) with increased inclusion of NLM in the diets. Nitrogen balance was significantly (P < 0.05) better in animals supplemented with NLM with sheep on 5% NLM having the best. This study, however, concluded that Neem leaf inclusion at 5% in West African dwarf sheep’s diet had effects on the overall performance of the animals with a potential improvement in nutrient digestibility and nitrogen utilization.
Key Words: Neem leaf, West African Dwarf Sheep, Nutrient digestibility, Nitrogen utilization