Nigeria is an agricultural country with diverse vegetation, varying from rainforest to the Sahel. About 32.42 million hectares of grazing land and 39.41 million hectares of cropland in Nigeria provide a substantial amount of feed for the country’s livestock(Shiawoya and Tsado, 2011). The savannah zone is home to about 80% of ruminant livestock population. Availability and quality of feed stuff are major constraints in the development of the livestock industry in this region. Extensive areas of the grazing lands are composed of indigenous species, which are of low quality (Shiawoya and Tsado, 2011). There is a wide variation in the quality and quantity of pasture available from one time of the year to another (Adamu, 2015). Hence, there is need to develop or adopt strategies, or technologies to provide highqualityforage for livestock in this region.
Several forage species, especially grasses have been introduced into Shika, Northern Nigeria and screened for productivity and adaptively over the past years. This has been in search of outstanding materials that could be used to partially or completely replace the low productive native grassland species (Whiteman, 1980). In some of the screening trials, Agishi (1978) on upland and Akinola and Olorunju (1990) on lowland reported some forage species that are well adapted to the Northern Guinea Savannah and produced a substantial amount of forage biomass.
There are many grass species that are used for pasture in the tropics and subtropics due to their high dry matter yields and good animal feed quality. Panicum maximum is one of these extensively used forage grasses (Correa and Santos, 2003). Panicum maximum (Guinea grass) is a native of tropical Africa, extending to the sub-tropics of South 1
Africa. It occurs at forest edges in the bush, as a pioneer grass covering the land cleared from the forest and in grassland with scattered trees where it tends to grow in high shades under trees (Whiteman, 1980). Proper soil fertility management and understanding the nutritional requirement of this grass species are extremely important for pasture management, which is reflected by higher feed yield and their availability for animals. The use of inorganic fertilizers can significantly increase forages production, providing greater capacity and thus resulting in higher milk and meat production per unit of area used (Pereira et al., 2011; Iwanmoto et al., 2015). The increased yield due to fertilizer application could be attributed to increased in both leaf production, increased number of tillers and photosynthesis directly (Aderinola et al., 2011).Dry matter yield also generally increases with increasing fertilizer rates (Carvalho et al., 2000; Adewumi, 2013). Fertilization enhances nutrient digestibility, which canimprove livestock Production (Peyraud and Astigarraga, 1998). Fertilizer contributes to the greater productivity of Mombasa Guinea Grass by increasing production per cycle and the number of harvest cycles (Pereira et al., 2012; Hare etal., 2015). Increasing rates of nitrogen significantly increased CP and NDF concentrations in stems and leaves and; ADF concentrations in stems (Peyraud and Astigarraga, 1998; Adewumi, 2013; Hare et al., 2015) andreduction in the crude fibre content of stem (Onyeonagu et al., 2012).In addition, it can also provide other supplementary effects that will increase the efficiency of the system as a whole, such as the production of soilage or hay to be used during the dry season (Cecato et al., 2001). Stage of maturity also affects the quality and quantity of Panicum maximum. Dry Matter yield increases with advancing maturity, but quality declines (Taute et al,2002). Onyeonagu (2012) noted that cutting interval and fertilizer application havesignificant influence on the chemical composition of Panicum maximum forage.
Ruminant production is one of the major livestock activities in most of the developing countries in the tropics (Okoruwa and Agbonlahor, 2016). Ruminant livestock play an important role in the economic development of Nigeria in terms of feeding the steadily growing population and providing the investible resources for national development (Bolaji et al., 2016).Over the years, there has been a great increase in the production of goats in Nigeria which has resulted in poverty alleviation and the supply of high-quality animal protein in order to meet the demand of the teeming population (Ibrahim et al., 2014). Goats are classified as an important small ruminant on account of their unique ability to adapt and maintain themselves in a harsh environment. (Bolaji et al., 2016). Goats are one of the most prolific of all domesticated ruminants under tropical and subtropical conditions (Webb and Mamabolo, 2004) and their small size relative to cattle contributes to their wide distribution and easy management among Farmers. (Bolaji et al., 2016). The Red Sokoto, is the most important goat breed in Nigeria, accounting for about 70% of the estimated 34.5 million goats in Nigeria (Osuhor et al., 1998). Animal protein is one of the most important components of human diet and its consumption varies from country to country (Okai et al., 2005). Goats as a multipurpose animal are a major source of milk, skin and manure apart from meat. Goats also provide income for meeting household needs (Peacock et al ., 2005). Nigerian small ruminant industry is faced with the problem of meeting the nutritional requirements of the animals (Jones and Wilson, 1987; Fasae et al., 2005). Goats in Nigeria suffer several nutritional stresses in the dry season as a result of seasonal variability that affects the availability and nutritive quality of pastures which in turn causes marked decrease in nutrient intake and performance of the animal (Bolaji et al., 2016).Therefore, study on the effects of fertilizer and harvest time on Panicum maximumcv. Mombasa and Concentrate inclusion levels in Panicum maximumMombasa based diets isvery important.