Cactus pear cladodes are used as forage in the most arid regions. In Italy, the human consumption of prickly pear fruits and juice is gradually increasing for their numerous health benefits. In manufacturing plants that produce prickly pear juice, several by-products (prickly pear by-products PPB) are obtained. Despite their interesting nutritional characteristics, PPB are not very usable because of their poor shelf-life which is related to their high moisture and sugar content. The aim of this study was to verify the efficacy of ensilage to preserve PPB and to compare different inclusion levels (0, 5, and 10% as fed) of wheat straw. For each treatment, four under vacuum micro-silos were prepared and, after 35 days of storage, the state of preservation was evaluated. Subsequently, the aliquots were analyzed for chemical composition and incubated with bovine rumen fluid to evaluate the fermentation kinetics. The PPB 5% of straw showed significant lower pH and ammonia nitrogen concentration, indicating a better preservation process. Moreover, PPB 5% of straw showed better nutritional parameters (higher crude protein and lower Neutral Detergent Fibre) and fermentation characteristics (higher degradability and VFA volatile fatty acids production) when compared with the other PPB silages. Ensilage with straw represents a suitable storage technique to preserve the nutritional characteristics of PPB.
Keywords: in vitro gas production; micro silos; storage; straw.