Sesame flowers

Nutritional value of sesame silage as a livestock feed

Alvaro Garcia

Sesame silage could be a good alternative to other forages in semi-arid regions. In several parts of the world the dry season severely restricts the availability of forage for livestock. This is particularly true in tropical regions where not only is the herbage mass available the constraint but also its nutrient digestibility. Under these conditions, farmers need to rely on forages harvested and preserved during the rainy season, with hay and silages being the most frequent approaches to conservation.

The quality of the preserved forage is generally never higher than the original fresh material. These losses in nutritive value can arise from inadequate fermentation, heating/oxidation of nutrients, effluent, and growth of undesirable microorganisms. Corn silage has been a staple in the diet for dairy cows across the years since it supplies highly digestible nutrients when preserved right.

The problem with corn, however, is that its success as a crop highly depends on water availability, particularly during critical stages of its development. Other crops that are used in these regions are millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). Another plant species with potential for silage production in semi-arid regions is sesame (Sesamum indicum L.).

Sesame characteristics as a forage

Sesame is a flowering plant with numerous wild relatives occurring in Africa. It is one of the oldest oilseed crops known, domesticated well over 3000 years ago. Its extensive root system allows this crop to be quite tolerant to drought-conditions, growing where other crops fail. It does require however adequate moisture during germination and early growth.

Sesame varieties have adapted to many soil types. The high-yielding crops thrive best on well-drained, fertile soils of medium texture and neutral pH, it does have however less tolerance for saline soils and water-logging conditions. Sesame crops require 90 to 120 frost free days and warm conditions above 23 °C favor its growth and yield.

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