Last update: March 30, 2012 02:00:30 PM E-mail Print


Prickly pear and saltbush versatile

FC Hayward


Farmers are inclined to think of prickly pear and saltbush only as drought feed, said Mr Fritz Hayward of the Animal Production Section at Grootfontein during a Farmers' day held at Carnarvon.

He said that farmers seldom bear the versatility of these crops in mind.

Prickly pear and saltbush can be put to good use when, for instance, stock is withdrawn after rains in order to give the veld an opportunity to recover.

As far back as 1888, a certain Dr McOwan advocated that farmers should use prickly pear as a supplement during periods of drought. During 1922 the first actual experiments with this crop were commenced at the then Grootfontein School of Agriculture. According to Mr Hayward, these early researchers at Grootfontein verified the soundness of Dr McOwan's recommendations.

Almost a 100 years have elapsed since prickly pear was first suggested as a drought feed in this country and still it appears that this message is falling on deaf ears, Mr Hayward said.

Research on prickly pear at Grootfontein has centred mainly on the physical form in which it may be utilised by small stock.

As a result of its high moisture content of about 90 % during winter, small stock cannot take in prickly pear in sufficient quantities to fulfil their nutritional requirements.

A ration of prickly pear alone therefore cannot maintain the body mass of sheep. The main deficiency that will occur is that of protein. It is therefore essential that a protein supplement such as lucerne be fed along with prickly pear.

Since saltbush, on the other hand, supplies enough protein, Mr Hayward said that saltbush and prickly pear can successfully be used in combination by grazing these crops on alternate days.

However, he stressed the fact that these crops should not be planted together in one plantation, because the difference in palatability will cause stock to overgraze the prickly pear and avoid the saltbush.



Karoo Regional Newsletter Summer 1982