Forage and Fodder Plants

Forage and fodder plants are crops that comprise livestock feed. Different animals will feed on different kinds of plants depending on the region and the habitat.

Important forage crops for cattle in East Africa are legumes like lucerne (also known as alfalfa), which helps to increase meat, and milk production. Wild bees are the main pollinators of lucerne. Other legume species used by livestock include: acacias, Indigofera and Crotolaria. All of these are dependent on pollinators.

The highly nutritious pods of the umbrella thorn acacia Acacia tortilis are widely consumed by livestock in arid and semi-arid regions. Without these pods, it would be harder for livestock to survive in arid areas. The pods are so valuable for supporting livestock that Acacia tortilis trees are carefully guarded, and passed as an inheritance from parents to children in parts of northern Kenya. Acacia pods are the result of pollination by a wide range of insects, primarily wild bees.

Indigofera are small sturdy shrubs that grow in the desert and are an important forage plant for camels. In many parts of the Horn of Africa, free-ranging camels browse on the leaves and pods of Indigofera. Without them, camels would not be able to survive in these areas. Indigofera is dependent on wild bee species for pollination.

These examples show how pollinators are connected to us, not just through cultivated crops, but through our livestock too.

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Leafcutter bee pollinating Indigofera spinosa by D. J. Martins
Leafcutter bee pollinating Indigofera spinosa by D. J. Martins
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Camels are one of the livestock species whose diet is highly dependent on pollinators. Photo by D. J. Martins
Camels are one of the livestock species whose diet is highly dependent on pollinators. Photo by D. J. Martins

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