Cactus is water and feed for livestock on dry spells

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Calves feed on cactus in Brazil. Cactus can supply enough water yo livestock for survival during dry spells. PHOTO BY FEEDIPEDIA

Farmers feeding livestock with 40 kilos of cacti give at least 35 litres of water per day besides the nutritional benefits of the wild shrub.

Livestock farmers regularly lose livestock to drought, when water and vegetation become scarce. Growing this fleshy shrub can offer feed and water solutions to the farmers.

Although the amount of water is not sufficient per day for lactating dairy cows, which consume between 80 litres and 120 litres per day- depending on the body size- the amount can help animals survive in harsh weather.

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation researcher John Kang’ara, however, warned that those cacti with spikes can cause death to livestock by inflicting injuries along the digestible system. Spikeless varieties are the best.

Cactus is said to be one of the plants with the highest water retaining ability. It can survive even in ‘very’ dry areas. This makes it one of the best forage crops for pastoralists, who happen to be in low rainfall regions.

KALRO got interested in the fleshy desert tree, after farmers from Nyeri County reported ‘good health’ of their animals after a severe 2008 dry spell.

“Having cacti for feeds saves animals from starving to death when drought strikes. Sheep for example can survive on cacti for 500 days without any other pasture or water, King’ara said in an Inter Press Service News Agency Publication.

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The research has been supported by another one from Chakwal, Pakistan, where 2kg of cacti were mixed with other shrub feeds and the goats and sheep gained at least 33g per day in two months as reported by International Livestock Research Institute.

Besides the large deposits of vitamin A, B and C, cactus offers livestock a variety of other mineral.

In every 100g of dry cactus, there are 164mg of calcium, 0.052mg of copper, 0.59mg of iron, and 0.52mg of magnesium. There are 16mg of phosphorus, 0.21mg of zinc, among others, accordint to online resource centre, Nutrition and you.

Cactus grows in the wild naturally, or as a hedge. More other people grow it as an ornamental plant because of the slap-like branches. The spiked ones are the commonest.