Livestock Research for Rural Development 31 (5) 2019 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Chemical composition and in-vitro digestibility of cultivars of cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) cladodes in Ganta-Afeshum district, Tigray, Ethiopia

Belayneh Bazie, Niguse Gebru Weldemariam1 and Berihu Haftu2

Enjibara University Department of Animal Science
1 Adgrat University department of Animal production and technology, POB 50
2 Adigrat University department of biomedical, POB50


The study was conducted to evaluate chemical composition and in vitro digestibility of several cultivars of cactus. Young and medium-aged cladodes of 4 cultivars (Qeyh, Lemats, AboyHalibo and Tsaeda) were analyzed. DM content was 8.3 to 11.3%, crude protein was 2.64 to 3.7% in DM, NDF was 19 to 21% and ADF 2.00 to 2.5% in DM. Soluble carbohydrates (NFE) were 58 to 70% in DM and in vitro DM digestibility 74.8 to 82.7%. It is suggested that correctly supplemented with NPN and bypass protein the cactus cladodes could support high levels of ruminant productivity.

Key words: composition, nutritive value, varieties


Cactus pear is a member of the Cactaceae family (Reyes et al 2005) and native to central Mexico and the Caribbean Region (Wallace and Gibson 2002). According to Kibra (1992), missionaries introduced cactus to the Northern part of Ethiopia around 1847. Opuntia plants are native to many environments, ranging from desert areas below sea level to high altitude areas. One of the most prominent characteristics of Opuntia is its anatomy and morphology, which have enabled it to adapt too many stressful growing conditions where other plants cannot survive (Nobel 1999). Cactus pear is adapted to many parts of Northern Ethiopia. In Tigray region, uncultivated cactus covers about 32,000ha of land (Tesfay et al 2011). There is increased interest in the cactus from the recognition of its potential contribution to agricultural diversification and as additional income source for farmers (Padulosi 1998). According to Nobel (1998), the shallow and extensive root system enables the plant to exploit scarce rainfall in such environments. In Tigray, cactus pear cladode is a good source of animal feed. In the region, cactus pear has become an integral part of the culture and economy of the people. Cladodes are often fed to ruminants with fibrous feedstuffs like straw and hay to avoid disturbances in rumen functioning. In the region, the greater part of the cactus plantation is wild and not well managed (Tesfay et al 2011) as scientific studies for cactus pear cultivar improvement and development have yet to receive attention in the area. There is no breeding program aimed at production of hybrid cultivars of cactus which are suited for specific areas for its multipurpose use. Thus the aim of this study was to evaluate the chemical composition and in vitro digestibility of cultivars of cactus pear of different ages.

Materials and methods

Description of the study area

The study area is located at 960 km North of Addis Abeba the capital city of Ethiopia and at an elevation of 2457 m above sea level. It has three agro climatic zones: low, mid and high land with a bimodal rain fall pattern, in which the long rain season starts from end of June to beginning of September and short rain season from January to March. The average annual rainfall of the area varies between 300 and 400 mm.

Study design and sampling

The study was conducted with 8 treatments in a 2*4 factorial design (Four cultivars and two ages). Cultivars Qeyh, Lemats, Aboy Halibo and Tsaeda were selected purposively based on their abundance and contribution as feed or/and food in the district. The reasons for the vernacular calling of the selected cactus cultivars were: Lemats: it is a cactus cultivar named as Lemats in the local language to mean spineless cactus; Qeyh (in the local language), to mean red color fruit pulp at the time of ripening; Tsada, to mean yellowish white color of its fruit pulp during repining; Halibo, the name of this cactus cultivar was directly taken from the name of the person called “Aboy Halibo” who first introduced this cactus cultivar to the local farmers. The cactus pear cultivars growing in Kebelles (Beati, Buket and Golea) were identified in collaboration with Gant-AfeshumDistrict Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development extension workers. From each selected cultivar, samples were taken from two different ages: young (the cactus cladodes aged maximum of two years); and medium (between two to three years). Five similar age cladodes were cut and chopped to about 2 cm. Samples were bulked and packed in plastic bags. Treatments of the study were arranged as in the following table.

Table 1. Experimental treatments sampling frequency
Young Medium aged
Lemats beles 5 5
Qeyh beles 5 5
Beles Aboy Halibo 5 5
Tsada beles 5 5
Chemical analysis

The samples were transported from the study site to Adigrat University using an icebox. Dry matter was determined by drying the samples in an oven at 60oC for 72h after which samples were weighed, ground and packed in plastic bags. For further analysis samples were ground to pass a 1mm sieve then subjected to laboratory analysis for dry matter (DM), ash, crude fat (EE), crude fiber (CF) following the standard procedure of AOAC (1990). The acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and acid detergent lignin (ADL) were determined following the procedures of Van Soest and Robertson (1985). In vitro digestibility was determined by the method of Tilley and Terry (1963).

Statistical analysis

Data were subjected to General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of SAS (2002) for analysis of variance (ANOVA). The model used was: Yijk = µ + Vi + Aj + (V*A)k + eijk.Where:Yijk = the overall response; µ = overall mean; Vi.= variety effect; Aj= age effect; V*Ak= interaction effect; eijk.= random error.


Proximate composition was not affected by age but varied among cultivars (Table 2). The cactus cladodes were very low in crude protein and in ADF and ADL with moderate levels of NDF. The soluble carbohydrate fraction (NFE) was therefore very high (58 to 70%). The IVDMD was not affected by age but varied among cultivars (Table 2), ranging from 74.8 to 82.7%.

Table 2. Chemical composition of the cultivars versus their age  
Age Cultivars
<2yr >2yr SEM p Lemats Qeyh Tsada Halibo SEM p
DM, % 8.85 9.74 1.93 0.39 11.3a 9.06b 8.55b 8.29b 0.23 0.0002
As % in DM
OM 85.4 84.7 12.8 0.79 86.3b 83.2c 89.1a 81.5c 1.1 <.0001
Ash 14.6 15.3 12.8 0.78 13.6b 16.7a 10.8b 18.4a 1.15 <0.0001
CP 3.88 2.73 0.459 0.053 3.70 3.05 2.60 3.85 0.421 0.142
EE 0.37 0.39 0.068 0.92 0.36 0.13 0.46 0.57 0.025 0.051
CF 10.6 11.6 6.57 0.58 12.9a 12.4ab 7.4c 11.6b 0.406 <0.001
NFE 61.3 60.9 39.8 0.93 58.0b 58.5b 70.1a 57.7b 2.9 <0.001
NDF 19.9 20.7 4.71 0.610 21.4 20.9 20.3 18.6 2.5 0.23
ADF 2.18 2.30 0.091 0.579 2.3a 2.45a 1.85b 2.35a 0.019 0.003
ADL 1.28 1.23 0.109 0.837 1.35b 1.3b 0.8c 1.55a 0.006 <0.001
IVDM 79.4 77.6 28.7 0.625 79.3b 77.2c 82.7a 74.7d 1.35 <0.001
abc Means without common superscript differ at p<0.05

Figure 1. DM content of cladodes: age versus cultivar Figure 2. Crude protein content of cladodes: age versus cultivar

Figure 3. Nitrogen free extract content of cladodes: age versus cultivar Figure 4. Crude fiber composition of cladodes: age versus cultivar

Figure 5. In vitro DM digestibility of cladodes; age versus cultivar


The DM content of the four different cactus cultivars was low. Similar to this, Nefzaoui and Ben (1995) reported low (9.13%) dry matter composition of cactus cladodes. Age and cultivar did not affect the CP content. Similar to the current study, Gregory and Felker (1992) commented that O. ficus-indican had similar protein content in all age classes. The results for crude fiber relatively agreed with those observed by Schievar (2004) and Ferreira et al (2012). The NFE was very high and indicates that correctly supplemented with NPN and bypass protein (Preston and Leng 1987) the cladodes could support high levels of ruminant productivity. The neutral detergent fiber levels were similar to those reported by Zeeman (2005) for Algerian cactus. The acid detergent (ADF) levels (1.85 to 2.45%) were very low compared with those (9.70 to 10.4%) reported by Mokoboki et al (2016) for Malta and Morado varieties, respectively. The IVDMD was not affected by age of the cladodes but the cultivars differed. The values of this study were slightly higher than those reported by Friew (2001) for young (77.9%) and medium (71.1%) aged cladodes.



The authors would like to give special appreciation to Ethiopian ministry of education (EoM) and Adigrat University for sponsoring and awarding all the necessary materials to collect the data.


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Received 19 October 2018; Accepted 29 March 2019; Published 1 May 2019

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