Feeding cactus to dairy cows

Feeding cactus Opuntia to dairy cows in semiarid regions

Fernando Díaz

The use of cactus for feeding dairy cows in dry areas has been increasing mainly due to its high efficiency of water use, rapid dissemination, high water and energy content, and high forage yield. Opuntia stricta is a large cactus originated in central America that can grow up to two meters in height.

Although it is considered an invasive species in several countries (Australia, South Africa), in semiarid regions of Brazil, a new spineless genotype of this cactus (Orelha de Elefante Mexicana) has become one of the most important forage sources for dairy cattle. This variety is very energetic with non-fibrous carbohydrate (NFC) levels greater than 50% in a dry matter (DM) basis, and has a high forage production per area (20 – 30 tons of dry matter/ha/year).

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