Effects of Calliandra and Sesbania supplementation on weight gain in dairy calves on smallholder farms in Kenya

D. N. Makau, J. A. VanLeeuwen, G. K. Gitau, S. L. McKenna, C. Walton, J. Muraya, J. J. Wichtel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The growth rate of female calves on dairy farms is one of the crucial factors which influence age at first calving, affecting lifetime lactation productivity of a dairy cow. Diets with adequate crude protein are necessary to support calf growth. The study objective was to determine the effects of nutritional advice and diet supplementation with Calliandra calothyrsus and Sesbania sesban on average daily weight gain in dairy calves on semi-commercial smallholder dairy farms in Kenya. This trial involved 155 calves from 73 smallholder dairy farms, in Kenya, randomly selected and allocated to either intervention or control groups. The intervention group received nutritional advice and seedlings of Calliandra calothyrsus and Sesbania sesban, while the control group did not receive these interventions. Every 1–2 months for 16 months, data on farm nutritional practices and management were collected in a questionnaire, and physical examinations were done to monitor weight and health status. Descriptive and univariable statistical analyses were conducted, and multivariable mixed linear regression models were used for identification of factors associated (P < 0.05) with the natural log transformation of weight gain of calves on a given farm, controlling for clustering of visits within calves. Feeding at least 0.2 kg/day (wet weight) of Calliandra or Sesbania to calves <6 months old resulted in 33.2% increase in daily weight gain, while controlling for confounding by breed and sex of the calf. For calves ≥6 months, there was a significant interaction between amount of hay fed and if calves were also fed on Calliandra or Sesbania. When no Calliandra or Sesbania supplementation was provided, the mean weight gain was low and relatively constant even with increasing amounts of hay. When Calliandra or Sesbania supplement was added to the diet, the mean weight gain increased from 0.17 kg to 0.48 kg when hay was fed at 1 and 5 kg, respectively, while controlling for confounding by amount of maize silage fed and the prevailing season. In conclusion, supplementation of calf diets with at least 0.2 kg/calf/day of Calliandra or Sesbania is beneficial for faster weight gains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104787
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was primarily funded by Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships (QES) which are managed through a unique partnership of Universities Canada.

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) and Canadian universities. This program is made possible with financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments and the private sector. We also acknowledge the large contribution made by volunteers and staff of Farmers Helping Farmers, a non-governmental organization – their existing relationships and agricultural efforts and inputs provided a strong foundation for the work and the entry point to the Naari community. As well, the support of the University of Nairobi, NDFCS and the cooperation of Upendo Women’s Group and the primarily women dairy farmers made it all possible.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Calf growth
  • Calliandra
  • Kenya
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Sesbania


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