Animal Feeding / Fodder / ILRI / Kenya / Livestock / Pastoralism

Cactus could feed East African livestock, say scientists

Opuntia cactus: Rich in water and vitamins but poor in protein

A succulent, wild-growing cactus that has been widely dismissed as a noxious weed could sustain African livestock during drought, according to scientists at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI).

A paper by John Kang’ara and Josiah Gitari, animal nutritionists at KARI, concludes that Opuntia species — the prickly pear or paddle cacti — have extreme tolerance to drought and remain succulent and easily digestible even in times of extreme water shortages, which makes them an excellent source of water and nutrition in harsh conditions.

The researchers are now asking regional governments to encourage cactus plantations to help livestock survive drought.

… But Ben Lukuyu, an animal nutritionist at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, said the cactus’s low protein and dry matter content limit its importance as a source of forage to periods of extreme drought.

Read more… (Sci Dev.Net)

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