|Authors: ||H.O. de Waal, L.M.J. Schwalbach, W.J. Combrinck, K.L. Shiningavamwe, J. Els|
|Keywords: ||cactus pear, live weight gain, sheep, sun-dried|
Growth and carcass characteristics of lambs fed diets containing sun-dried and coarsely ground cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica ‘Algerian’) cladodes, supplemented with different nitrogen sources, were evaluated.
Forty-five young Dorper wether lambs (weighing ± 22 kg) were randomly allocated to three diets; the 15 lambs per diet were subdivided in three subgroups of five lambs each.
The diets were a conventional feedlot diet (T0) and two cactus pear-based diets (T1 and T2) with additional nitrogen in the form of non-protein nitrogen (NPN; feed grade urea) or natural protein (sunflower oilcake meal). Lambs were weighed at the start of the trial and thereafter every week to determine average daily gains.
Lambs were slaughtered when they reached an average target weight of 35 kg live body weight.
Lambs fed diets T0 and T2 gained faster (ADG) (P<0.05) and achieved better (P<0.05) efficiency of gain (FCR) than lambs fed diet T1. Carcass weights did not differ significantly (P>0.05) among diets.
Dressing percentage was significantly (P>0.06) higher for lambs fed the Opuntia-based diets (T1 and T2) than those fed the conventional diet (T0). The lack of significant differences in carcass characteristics considered in this study suggest that carcass quality is not affected by inclusion of sun-dried and coarsely ground cactus pear (O. ficus-indica) cladodes in diets or by the type of nitrogen source.
The difference in ADG and FCR between cactus pear-based diets showed the importance of high quality nitrogen sources for lambs.
This research programme has started evaluating Opuntia-based diets for beef cattle.
These trials are opening prospects to commercialise the use of sun-dried Opuntia cladodes in balanced diets for ruminants.
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