Can Cows Eat Cactus

Yes, grass is what cows typically consume.

Brazil is a nation located in Eastern South America. It is South America’s largest nation and the location of the Amazon rain forest. One region in Brazil, nevertheless, is not quite as moist as the rain forest.

Brazil hasn’t had a drought this severe in the past 50 years. For 19 months—a that’s full year—Northern Brazil hasn’t received enough rain. Because they lack the water they require to consume and thrive during a drought, plants and animals begin to become ill and eventually perish.

Plants, as you may know, require three things to grow: 1) Water; 2) Sunlight; and 3) Healthy Soil

What do plants consume, though? A good query! Photosynthesis is the process through which plants convert sunlight into food. Brazil receives plenty of sunlight, but when it doesn’t rain, the soil becomes too dry and the plants run dry. Plants begin to wither if they have no access to water.

In Northeastern Brazil, almost all of the flora have perished. The term “cactus” refers to a plant that hasn’t. When it rains, cactus plants do a great job of soaking up the water and storing it for later use. Therefore, the cactus has access to water even when it isn’t raining.

Some Brazilian farmers have begun feeding cactus to their cows. The cactus is picked by the farmers, who then burn off the sharp spines before feeding it to their cows. The cactus supplies the cows with many of the beneficial carbs they require for energy.

The fact that cows eat cactus is perhaps not all that horrible. The component of food that provides us with quick energy is carbohydrates. Additionally, carbohydrates are a great source of the vitamins and minerals we require to stay healthy.

In a tiny community called Serrita*, one farmer named Mr. Djalma Sedrim and his family reside. Previously, Mr. Sedrim owned roughly 1000 cows, but since the drought began, over 600 of them have perished. To help his cows produce milk to feed his family, he is giving cactus to the rest of his herd.

Cows can’t survive just on cactus forever, and eventually all the cactus will be consumed! Therefore, the farmers are praying for rain to come soon.

Does cactus benefit cows?

Cattle will be given something green to eat with more protein than dry grass and at a much lower cost than hay if the thorns on cactus are burned.

Can cows eat thorny cacti?

“Ranchers burn the needles off nopal, or cactus, during droughts when there is no grass or hay for cattle to eat in the pastures. The plant’s pads or stems have a small amount of protein but are high in moisture and fiber. Range cubes are protein pellets that ranchers use to augment the meals of their cattle.”

According to Montemayor, chamuscando and bringing additional feed, hay, and water to cattle are expensive practices, but for many ranchers in South Texas, time may be running out to sell their herds now and rebuild when the drought ends.

He noted that many of the ranchers were in their late 60s and 70s. “They’ll have to buy young animals again if they sell their herd and the drought ends the next year. Ranchers who spend $2,400 on a “pair,” consisting of a cow and a newborn calf, must wait four to five years to sell four or five calves in order to make back their money.

“Many ranchers are trying everything they can to keep their livestock alive right now because they fear they won’t have that much time.

A rancher needs to have a lot of burned cactus on hand once cattle start eating it.

“Cattle accustomed to eating cactus will consume it with spines and all if the burned cactus runs out, thus ranchers must burn as least a two-day supply when burning cactus. They quit eating as a result, which causes mouth injuries, and the rancher now has a whole new set of issues “explained Montemayor.

According to Montemayor, a rancher with 30 head of cattle will spend roughly $35 per day simply on the fuel to burn cacti at an average cost of $3.50 per gallon of propane.

“A rancher should have a lot of cacti on his property. The price of the protein supplement is another factor. Some people place molasses tubs out for the animals, which aid in their digestion and hydration.”

Water, a resource long gone from many South Texas ranches, is necessary for quenching the thirst of thirsty cattle.

“Ranchers without wells or windmills must pay to bring water to their ranches because the ponds there have long since dried up. For two or three years, several of these ranchers have been transporting water to their properties. With 30 head, you’re talking about a lot of water every day considering that a lactating cow uses roughly 20 gallons per day.”

Ranchers transport untreated Rio Grande water from municipal water treatment facilities to their ranches using a variety of improvised and adapted tanks and trailers that use $4 per gallon diesel fuel. The price of the water is reasonably low, at around $10 for 500 liters, but the journeys are nearly continuous, according to Montemayor.

“A ranch’s costs and efforts dramatically increase once a drought begins to deplete its natural resources. The list continues on and on. As equipment is used more frequently, more repairs and maintenance are required.”

In the lower counties of the Rio Grande Valley, where irrigated fields are available, ranchers have also begun purchasing hay. But he said that even that wouldn’t endure for long.

The price of a round bale of hay is currently around $100, but when water districts begin to reduce the irrigation water that hay growers have had access to, hay will become more expensive and scarcer.

A South Texas way of life that dates back more than 250 years is seriously in jeopardy, according to Montemayor.

He declared, “Our ranchers are not children. “They are suffering greatly as a result of the money and effort required. We might be reaching the end of an era in this area because there hasn’t been any rain since Hurricane Alex in 2010 and none is predicted. Farmers and ranchers share a strong sense of optimism, but how long can it last?”

Animals can they eat cactus?

There are numerous species that consume cacti. Among them are woodrats, camels, birds, iguanas, tortoises, beetles, and jackrabbits, among others. Cacti are consumed by people as well. Such animals have evolved specific defenses to prevent injury from thorns and toxicity from cacti poisons.

The majority have evolved behavioral, anatomical, and physiobiological defenses against the deleterious effects of cactus use.


Prickly pear cacti and jumping Chollas are enjoyable to camels (have extremely sharp barb and spines). They adore the pads and spines of cacti. They can practically digest any tough fibrous plant because they are ruminants.

They attempt to avoid the spines when they eat so they may enjoy the delectable insides. Their prehensile, sensitive top lips are present (split into two haves). Camel upper lips are manipulated, acting as a sense of touch.

Their leathery, thick lips prevent them from experiencing the cactus’ discomfort. To help them cope with the pain of cactus pricks, they also have fragments of skin inside their mouths.

Camel eating the spiky vegetation might occasionally be harmful. To enjoy the plant’s green sections, they do suffer the agony.


They are often referred to as wood rats or trade rats. Packrats have huge ears, long tails, and large, black eyes, although they otherwise resemble rats. Although they adore eating the flesh of cacti, they always take care to avoid the spines.


Large-eared jackrabbits consume the base of cacti because they find this area to be juicy. They choose out areas with fewer or no spines to eat. In addition to eating fruit, jackrabbits also spread the seeds through their excrement.


They are also known as collared peccaries. Their long, pointed fangs stick out from their mouths. Javelinas mostly inhabit oak woodlands, desert washes, and saguaro and Palo Verde forests.

All varieties of cactus that can be found nearby are consumed by these creatures. They prefer to consume the spines of the desert prickly pear cactus as their major source of food.

Ground squirrel

One of the rodent family members is the ground squirrel. They don’t reside in trees; they live on the grounds. These squirrels range in color from tawny, gray, reddish, pale brown, to olive, or dark brown, and are more active throughout the day. They enjoy eating the cactus’ seeds and fruits, but they stay away from the spiky parts.

Prairie dogs

These rodents are herbivorous burrowers. White-tailed, black-tailed, Utah, Gunnison’s, and Mexican prairie dogs are the five species that make up this group. They turn to cactus as a source of food when they are out of options. They often eat the cactus’ base, blooms, and fruits.

Gila Woodpecker

They enjoy eating cactus fruits just as much as they enjoy devouring insects. The thorns are avoided by Gila woodpeckers. When building their nest or obtaining food, they use their pointed beaks to create cavities in the saguaro cactus. They have room and a good environment to grow their young in thanks to the saguaro cactus.

Eastern Cotton Tail

The rabbits of New World cottontails are called Eastern Cotton Tails. They resemble jackrabbits more. They enjoy eating the fruits and the cactus’ base. They contribute to the spread of seeds by their feces.

Galapagos Land Iguana

Because it is well adapted, this animal can consume the entire cactus. Its strong digestive system prevents it from experiencing any negative effects from ingesting the cactus spines. It removes larger thorns using the pad on its front paws before opting to take a few swallows of the cactus.

Can sheep consume cacti?

The lower amount of dietary NDF (426 vs. 481.2 g/kg for the diet with 280 g/kg DM of cactus pear) and subsequently lower content of dietary peNDF resulted in the lower number of chews per day (12,777 chews/day) in sheep that did not get cactus pear (treatment with 280 g/kg DM maize) (physically effective NDF). According to Beauchemin and Yang (2005), reducing the peNDF content of the diets linearly decreased the number of chews per day during intake and tended to decrease the number of chews per day during rumination.

As the amount of cactus pear in the diet rose, the linear digestibility coefficients of DM, OM, CP, and NDF also increased (Figure 1). For each cactus pear treatment (0, 70, 140, 210, and 280 g/kg of DM), the OM digestibility ranged from 733.7 to 832 g/kg, and the intake of digestible organic matter was 0.851, 0.973, 1.067, 0.988, and 0.990 kg/day.

Similar to this, the range of CP digestibility was 745.3 to 866.2 g/kg, which corresponds to daily protein intakes of 154.3, 180.7, 192.8, 180.7, and 174.8 g for each treatment, respectively. The addition of cactus pear forage to the diets enhanced the digestibility of nutrients without producing any associative effects.

The ruminal microbial protein production process needs digestible organic materials as an energy source. It is calculated that the daily N intakes for each treatment were 24.7, 28.9, 30.8, 28.9, and 27.9 g based on the amount of digestible protein consumed. Nitrogen promoted cellulolytic action by promoting ruminal microbial development.

As the amount of cactus pear in the diet rose, the NDF digestibility increased linearly (P 0.001) as well. The NDF digestibility varied between the 0 and 280 g/kg DM of cactus pear treatments, from 565.8 to 775.3 g/kg, respectively. The rumen quickly ferments pectin, a type of soluble carbohydrate found in high concentrations in cactus pears. Between the 0 and 280 g/kg DM of cactus pear treatments, the neutral detergent fiber in the diets varied from 426.0 to 481.2 g/kg, respectively. Tifton hay (316.7 g/kg DM) accounted for the majority of the NDF in the diet. The physical efficiency of NDF in the diet was enhanced by the combination of Tifton hay and cactus pear. The establishment of microbial communities was ensured by the fiber’s stimulation of chewing and rumination.

With increasing cactus pear addition to the diet, the daily weight gain (DWG) decreased linearly (P 0.05). (Figure 2). Animal weight gain was decreased by the lower energy intake in the diets containing 140 and 280 g/kg DM cactus pear.

Between the diets containing 0 and 280 g/kg of DM of cactus pear, respectively, the DWG dropped from 255 to 210 g/day. Sheep gained weight less than averagely as a result of the diet’s decreased metabolizable energy supply (2.30–2.05 Mcal of ME/kg DM) and the ME intake from the 210 g/kg DM cactus pear treatment. The DWG was estimated to have decreased by about 0.378 g for every extra percentage unit of cactus pear. It is thought that the 45 g difference between the DWG of sheep fed meals containing 0 and 280 g/kg DM of cactus pear is only marginally significant. It is acceptable to utilize cactus pear fodder as a substitute for this cereal in feedlot sheep in the semi-arid part of Brazil where soil and climate conditions make the production of cereal grains like maize difficult. A higher amount of dry matter was consumed per kilogram of weight increase, which led to reduced feeding efficiency (186, 177, 169, 160, and 152) and a linear drop (P 0.05) with increasing amounts of cactus pear in the diet.

Despite reducing weight gain, the whole replacement of maize with cactus pear increased DM intake and enhanced the sheep’s capacity to absorb the nutrients. Thus, it is advised to include cactus pear in the diet of feedlot sheep being finished in semi-arid areas of Brazil.