Review: Forage kochia (Kochiaprostrata) for fall and winter grazing

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Small Ruminant Research





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Forage kochia (Kochia prostrata (L.) Schrad.), also known as prostrate kochia, or prostrate summer cypress is a long-lived, perennial, semi-evergreen, half-shrub well adapted to the temperate, semiarid and arid regions of central Asia and the western U.S. In these areas it has proven to be a valuable forage plant for sheep, goats, camels, cattle, and horses. Forage kochia is a C4 plant that is extremely drought and heat tolerant, in part due to a taproot that can extend up to 6.5 m in depth. It is also very salt tolerant and well adapted to some ecosystems dominated by halophytic species. It has been reported to be very productive when grown in soils with salinity electrical conductivity (EC) levels approaching 20 dS/m, and capable of persisting at much higher EC levels. Forage kochia's biomass yield depends upon the subspecies and environment, but reports generally range from 1000 to 1800 kg/ha in environments receiving 100–200 mm annual precipitation. Studies and practical experience have shown that forage kochia is very palatable and nutritious, especially during the late summer through winter period. Its nutritional characteristics include fall and winter crude protein levels above 70 g/kg needed for gestating ruminants. It also has low tannins and oxalates, and has not been reported to be a nitrate accumulator. When fed alone, it has acceptable fiber qualities, but research has shown that it can improve digestion kinetics when in a mixed diet with the low quality grasses as is common during late summer, fall, and winter months. Overall, forage kochia has the potential to improve the sustainability of small ruminant production in semiarid regions that frequently experience extended drought and saline conditions.


Small Rumin. Res. 91:47-55