Assessment of different supplemental feeding strategies including cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) for higher sheep productivity in Chakwal, Pakistan
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Small ruminant production remains the main source of income of rural population living in arid and semi-arid regions of Pakistan. Sheep and goats raised in these areas are generally confronted with severe nutritional deficits in addition to negative impact of climate change. Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) was introduced to farmers in the dry areas of Chakwal in 2014 as a succulent and drought tolerant species with great potential to provide fodder reserve to fill the gap in feed resources. Cactus cladodes are high in water, sugars, ash and vitamins A and C, but they are low in crude protein (CP) and fiber. This study was conducted to compare the effect of three different supplemental feeds including oat, lucerne and spineless cactus in addition to a control treatment (farmer practice without supplementation) on sheep productivity. Four flocks were selected and ten sheep of similar age and weight per flock were sampled at random in a completely randomized design. The crude protein (15 %) and total digestible nutrients (TDN 67 %) of the three formulations were almost similar. Measurement of live-weight gain was recorded on a fifteen days intervals. Findings indicate that dry matter intakes was not significant and ranged from 0.9; 0.99; 1.04 to 1.02 kg DM/day for oat, lucerne, cactus and control. Ewes fed on oat and lucerne based supplemental feed showed equal higher live-weight gain (66.7 g/day) followed by cactus based supplemental feeding (33.3 kg/day) over a 60 day period. Live-weight of ewe grazing rangelands only (control) have the lowest gain per day (17 g/day). We conclude that, adding cactus in sheep feeding has a positive impact on live-weight gain compared to solely grazing poor rangeland conditions.