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.
Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) is a perennial legume crop grown for centuries in Europe and the Middle East. It is named commonly “healthy hay” largely due to its condensed tannins (CT) content which inhibits protein degradation in the rumen, thereby minimizing the incidence of ruminal tympany (bloat).
Besides reducing erosion and improving soil health, double cropping winter annuals as forage crops in combination with corn is a common practice for increasing total forage yield per unit area of land in locations with long growing season. This strategy; however, is riskier in short seasons areas in which yield of one or both crops may be negatively affected.
Dairy cattle and other ruminants are biologically designed to convert forages and other fibrous feeds into high quality products such as meat and milk. Forages are in general the least expensive source of energy for dairy cows. However, the efficiency of converting forages to milk is limited by the digestibility of forage cell walls.
There are a wide variety of forage crops used in the United States for dairy farms. One of the most common is oat as it provides the benefit of diversifying crop rotation. In fact, over 1.3 million hectares of oat were planted in the United States with over 60 percent of the output used for forage.