|Author: ||F. Tegegne|
|Keywords: ||Cactus, nutritive value, ruminant.|
An experiment was carried out to determine the nutritional value of Opuntia ficus-indica, its safe level of inclusion in growing sheep diets and its contribution as water source.
Twenty-four male sheep were stratified and divided into six groups based on their initial liveweight.
Each group of four lambs was then assigned to one of the six experimental diets (T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, or T6 at 0, 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100%, on a dry matter (DM) basis, of cactus inclusion) in a randomised complete block design (RCBD). Data on FI and WI were subject to analysis of variance while data on weight were subject to analysis of co-variance as applied to CRD. Significant differences between treatment means were tested by Tukey's pairwise comparison.
Generally, there were significant differences between treatment means (p < 0.05) in terms of daily DMI and water intake due to the level of inclusion of O. ficus indica. Sheep in T1 gained 5.65 g/day, those in T2 maintained their live weight while the rest in T3, T4, T5 and T6 lost body weight.
From these groups, the losses in T5 and T6 were severe.
There were significant differences between treatment means (p<0.05) in terms of weight.
It was concluded that, under the conditions of this study, O. ficus-indica could safely substitute grass hay to a level of 20% for animals at maintenance.
In areas where there is severe feed shortage, however, it could substitute grass hay to a level of 60%. In addition, it has a substantial contribution in satisfying the water requirement of sheep.
For a conclusive result, however, further research is recommended.
As feed source, O. ficus-indica in different forms may have different effects on animal performance further investigation is recommended to gear towards this.
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