harsh conditions. Supplementing Alpine X local goats on native rangeland with cladodes and A. nummularia (100 g dry weight of each per day) substantially increases the daily weight gains of these animals (by 25-60 g day-1; Ben Salem et al. 2000), so fresh O. ficus-indica and other nonconven-tional feeds can have economic advantages for livestock feeding.
Cladodes can be an important fodder in the WANA region, as clearly shown for sheep. Cladodes are not a balanced feed, but are a good, inexpensive energy and water source. They are high in ash, Ca, soluble carbohydrates, and vitamin A, but low in crude protein, fiber, P, and Na; as cladodes age, they increase in dry matter and fiber but decrease in crude protein. As for other good forage crops, cladodes are highly digestible, with typical digestibilities of 60 to 70% for organic matter, 40 to 70% for crude protein, and 40 to 50% for crude fiber. When the level of cladodes in the diet increases, the intake of fibrous feeds, the rumen protozoa, and the rumen ammonia concentration increase while water intake and rumen cellulolytic activity decrease. Indeed, feeding cladodes can cause sheep essentially to stop drinking water. Cladodes are highly palatable—about 6 to 9 kg and 50 to 80 kg of dry weight can be consumed daily by sheep and cattle, respectively. Cladodes have a low gut fill value, because their intake does not reduce fibrous feed intake. The nutritive value of spiny and spineless cladodes are similar, and spines are readily removed. Cladodes should be supplemented with an appropriate and cost-effective nitrogen source (e.g., Atriplex spp.). Recommendations are (1) avoid decreasing rumen cellulolytic activity by adding molasses, (2) limit the amount of grain in the diet for the same reason, (3) feed animals fibrous feeds (straw, hay) before cactus to minimize any laxative effect, and (4) use a special mineral supplement for adequate amounts of sulfur. In any case, the high moisture content of cladodes alleviates the problem of watering animals in dry regions.
An earlier version of this material focusing less on international aspects and more on specific sheep diets and with different figures and tables appeared in the June 2000 CactusNet newsletter.
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Azocar, P. C., H. C. Rojo, J. J. Mira, and H. B. Manterola. 1996. Inclusión de nummularia (Atriplex nummularia Lindl.) y cladodios de tuna (Opuntiaficus-indica) en la dieta de cabras criollas, en reemplazo de heno de alfalfa. 1. Effecto en el consumo, peso vivo y producción de leche. Avances en Producción Animal 21: 43-50.
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Ben Salem, H. 1998. Effets de l'Acacia cyanophylla Lindl. sur l'ingestion et la digestion des régimes destinés aux ovins. Role des tanins et perspectives d'amélioration de sa valeur alimentaire. Ph.D. Thesis, Université de Dijon, Dijon, France.
Ben Salem, H., A. Nefzaoui., H. Abdouli, and E. R. Orskov. 1996a. Effect of increasing level of spineless cactus (Opuntiaficus-indica var. inermis) on intake and digestion by sheep given straw-based diets. Animal Science 62: 293 -299.
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