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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Effects of replacing grass with foliage on growth rate and feed intake in goats—a systematic review and meta-analysis

Kronqvist, Cecilia; Kongmanila, Daovy; Wredle, Ewa


Small ruminants such as goats have a higher preference for browse species than cattle and sheep. In a meta-analysis of 42 papers describing 117 experimental treatments found by a search performed in June 2021 in PubMed and Web of Knowledge, we examined the general effect of including foliage in the diet of goats, replacing grasses, on dry matter intake and average daily weight gain. The inclusion requirement for a paper was that it described a controlled trial with a control diet of grass and with grass replaced by foliage in the experimental diet. Publication bias was estimated by calculating the Fail-safe n. Random effects analyses were conducted, using effect size calculated as Hedges’ d. The results showed that inclusion of foliage increased feed intake (Hedges’ d = 1.350, SE = 0.388) and average daily weight gain (Hedges’ d = 1.417, SE = 0.444) compared with a grass-based control. The positive effect of foliage inclusion on dry matter intake was associated with lower neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and higher crude protein (CP) in the foliage than in the grass it replaced. The positive effect on average daily weight gain was associated with higher CP concentration in the foliage than in grass. Foliage inclusion level showed a quadratic relationship with dry matter intake, with maximum dry matter intake achieved at a level of 50–60%. There was wide variation between the studies reviewed, and this variation was not reduced by subgroup analysis based on different kinds of foliage. In conclusion, the addition of foliage to goat diets can increase feed intake and daily weight gain, as an effect of the dietary preferences of goats and of generally higher nutritional value in foliage species compared with natural/semi-natural grass species.


dry matter intake; average daily gain; foliage inclusion level

Published in

2021, Volume: 11, number: 11, article number: 3163