The prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) may be generally regarded as a type of weed or unwanted plant, but this drought resistant plant could be the next best thing as an alternative livestock feed.
The plant, also known as spineless cactus or simply cactus pear, is the most agronomical vital species for the production of edible fruits and cladodes. As such, it came as no surprise that there has been an increasing interest in cactus pear as an alternative feed for livestock in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.
According to a publication from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform’s Directorate of Agricultural Research and Training, the plant has been noted for its resistance to drought, high biomass yield, plant ability, and salinity tolerance and soil adaptability.
While the plant species has been widely used as emergency forage against severe drought conditions often experienced in the country, it has never quite been marketed as a possible raw product for animal feed.
Leading scientists now believe that this once unwanted plant can serve as an alternative feed source for livestock. An alternative animal feed, scientists believe, should be affordable to many of the country’s communal and subsistence farmers and must be adapted to the harsh arid conditions of Namibia.
Although the prickly pear passes these requirements with flying colours, researchers believe that it is best mixed with other feedstuffs to ensure a balanced diet, as feeding it solely to an animal may not be best.
Studies with sheep elsewhere indicated that feeding Opuntia-based diets resulted in increased intake, digestibility and growth rates, especially when fed with poor quality roughages. Numerous feeding trials have shown that sun-dried and coarsely ground Opuntia cladodes can be used to replace up to 360 grams per kilogram of lucerne and some corn in sheep rations.
In Namibia, a study has shown that Opuntia-based diets can be used as feedlot diets for Dorper sheep without significantly changing their performances, dressing percentage or carcass value.
2020-08-04 12:08:19 | 1 months ago