Digestibility and nitrogen (N) balance studies were carried out on the leaves of short-term (ST) and long-term (LT) varieties of cassava, preserved by sun-drying and grinding into a meal or by ensiling. The cassava leaf meal and ensiled leaves (471 and 373 g/kg total diet dry matter, respectively) were mixed with palm syrup and palm oil, to give the experimental diets CLM and CLS, respectively. Four Mong Cai (MC) (17·2 (s.e. 2·61) kg) and four Landrace × Yorkshire (L×Y) (41·5 (s.e. 2·12) kg) male castrate pigs were used. The experiment was designed as a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial, with breed, cassava variety and processing method as factors.
The hydrogen cyanide (HCN) levels of the fresh cassava leaves of ST (545 mg/kg dry matter (DM)) and LT (408 mg/kg DM) varieties were reduced by proportionately 0·63 and 0·33, respectively, after sun-drying and by 0·78 and 0·77, respectively, after ensiling. Intake was higher for DM, crude protein (CP) and organic matter (OM) (P < 0·001) and neutral- and aciddetergent fibre (NDF and ADF) and crude fibre (CF) (P <0·01) in CLM than in CLS. There was a breed by processing method interaction for CF intake (P < 0·05). The coefficient of total tract apparent digestibility (CTTAD) was higher in CLS than in CLM for DM, CP, OM and CF (P < 0·001) and NDF and ADF (P < 0·01). The MC pigs digested ADF (P < 0·01) and CF (P < 0·001) more effectively than L×Y pigs but there was no difference (P > 0·05) in the digestibility of other nutrients or DM. There was a breed by cassava variety interaction for ADF digestibility and breed by processing method for CF digestibility (P < 0·01). Daily N intake and faecal N were higher (P < 0·001) in CLM than in CLS. Urinary N was lower in CLS than in CLM (P < 0·05) and in L×Y than in MC pigs (P < 0·001). N utilization (N retained per unit intake) was higher for CLS than CLM (P < 0·001) and in L×Y than in MC pigs (P < 0·001). It is concluded that ensiling is a more effective method than sun-drying for reducing HCN in cassava leaves after 60 days re-growth, and also results in higher digestibility of DM and dietary components than sun-drying. However, the bulkiness of the silage limits intake. The MC pigs digested dietary fibre more efficiently than the L×Y pigs, whereas the L×Y pigs utilized N more efficiently than the MC pigs.