• Technical Note: Mechanical harvesting of plains pricklypear for control and feeding

      Mueller, D. M.; Shoop, M. C.; Laycock, W. A. (Society for Range Management, 1994-05-01)
      Plains pricklypear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha L.) is abundant on the Central Great Plains with dry matter yields from 1,500 to 2,000 kg/ha. Cactus spines prevent cattle from grazing as much as 50% of the herbage around the plant. Pricklypear pads are quite palatable once spines have been removed. The possibility of simultaneously controlling and feeding plains pricklypear led to development of machinery for harvesting cactus. The harvesting machine is a side-delivery rake modified to uproot and windrow pricklypear which is later despined and fed to cattle. Machine harvesting was compared to hand harvesting on both a sandy loam and a clay loam site. There was no significant difference in cactus removal between hand and machine harvested plots or significant damage to desirable forage species. Pricklypear phytomass removal by the harvester averaged 89% and 88% on the sandy and clay loam sites, respectively. This provided an average of 1,166 kg/ha cactus as potential feed and increased availability of desirable forage species.