R. Bras. Zootec.01/Jul/2010;39(Sup..spe):204-15.
Potential of Caatinga forage plants in ruminant feeding
Caatinga is the most important biome for the livestock in the Brazilian semi-arid region. This review paper aimed to present information on different forage aspects of caatinga vegetation for ruminant feeding. Caatinga vegetation is formed mainly by shrubs and small trees, usually presenting thorns, deciduous leaves, and leaf abscission occurring frequently at the onset of the dry season. Additional components of the botanical composition in this biome includes the families cactaceae, bromeliaceae, and a herbaceous component formed by grasses, legumes, and forbs, often presenting annual cycle. Quantitative information of caatinga vegetation is scarce in the literature, mainly for the herbaceous stratum. Methodological aspects such as lack of standardization across evaluations make comparison regarding forage potential of caatinga plant species difficult. Index species must be identified within each caatinga type. Quantitative aspects of biological N2 fixation by caatinga species have not been extensively studied. Regarding forage nutritive value, it is necessary to study N availability for ruminants in caatinga plants, since large proportion of this element may bind to fiber components (ADIN). Manipulation of caatinga vegetation is an alternative to change forage quantity and quality for grazing animals, affecting their performance as a result. Studies measuring qualitative and quantitative variability of native forage resources from caatinga are mandatory in order to improve animal feeding management, with the ultimate goal of creating sustainable animal production based on caatinga vegetation.