Leaves of 12 accessions of Brachiaria sp. (three accessions from each of four species) were subjected
to tests of shearing strength using a Warner Bratzler meat shear. Morphological measurements of
these leaves were also taken in an attempt to standardize shearing strength measurements per unit of
leaf tissue. The technique was evaluated for its capacity to detect differences between accessions of
the same species. All samples were also analysed for dry matter (DM), organic matter (OM), neutral
detergent fibre (NDF), acid detergent fibre (ADF), lignin, crude protein, silica and digestibility in
order to relate measures of physical strength to chemical components. Results demonstrated the
presence of a clear relationship between shearing strength and structural (cell wall) components.
Correlations between shearing strength and NDF, ADF and lignin were 0·74, 0·82 and 0·80
respectively. The technique identified clear differences between accessions of the same species
(P < 0·05). These measurements can thus be used as a powerful tool for identifying forage plants of
superior nutritional quality within selection programmes. Measurements of strength standardized for
morphological characteristics illustrated that the ranking of the samples varied considerably
depending on which morphological character was used.