Impacts of substituting spineless cactus pear for oat or lucerne green fodder in grain-based supplements for small ruminants during winter in dry areas of Pakistan
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The current study investigated the effects of incorporating a spineless cactus in a grain-based supplement for foraging small ruminants during the winter in Pakistan. Does and ewes (and their respective kids and lambs) grazing freely in nearby rangelands were fed a grain-based supplement containing cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica), lucerne (Medicago sativa) or oat (Avena sativa) as green fodder or were unsupplemented (control) when penned at night for 60 days in Chakwal, Pakistan. While all supplemented groups gained more weight during the study than the control (unsupplemented) groups, there were no consistent patterns of response by the different supplemented groups. Though supplemented kids and lambs generally showed similar daily weight gains as control, these increases were significantly higher than control only toward the end of the 60-day study period. These results indicate that cactus can be satisfactorily substituted for either lucerne or oaten hay in grain-based supplements for small ruminants grazing pasture in the winter. This study did not allow any conclusions to be drawn on the benefits of including any of the additives in the grain-based supplement. Further studies would be needed to determine the value of adding cactus to the grain-based supplement before this practice could be recommended to farmers.