Spineless cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) and saltbush (Atriplex halimus L.) as feed supplements for fattening Awassi male lambs: effect on digestibility, water consumption, blood metabolites, and growth performance
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The effect of replacing 13.6% and 20.3% of a total ration of fattening Awassi lambs by two combinations of fresh saltbush (Atriplex halimus) and fresh spineless cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) cladodes at a ratio of 1.9:1 (TRT1) and 1.7:1 (TRT2) on water intake, digestibility, blood metabolites, and fattening performance was evaluated. Thirty-six lambs with average initial live weight 34.5 ± 4.18 kg were randomly assigned to three diets (control, TRT1, and TRT2). The control received a diet containing 166 g/kg barley straw and 834 g/kg of commercial concentrate mixture; TRT1 comprised 126 g barley straw, 739 g/kg concentrate mixture, 47 g/kg spineless cactus, and 89 g saltbush; TRT2 comprised 67 g/kg barley straw, 704 g/kg commercial concentrate mixture, 86 g/kg spineless cactus, and 144 g saltbush. A growth trial of 100 days (10 days of adaptation and 90 days of collection) followed by a metabolism trial of 17 days (10 days of adaptation and 7 days of a total feces and urine collection) was carried out. Daily dry matter intake, digestibility of crude protein, ether extract and nutrient detergent fiber, nitrogen balance, average daily gain, feed conversion ratio, and blood metabolites were not significantly affected by the treatment. Water consumption in TRT2was significantly 16%less comparedwith the control.A combination of saltbush and spineless cactus at a ratio of 1.7:1 (TRT2) replaced 60% of barley straw and 16% of concentrate mixture without adverse effects on health and growth performance of Awassi male lambs. This represents a potential reduction in feed costs for smallholder farmers.