Effects of replacement of alfalfa by big-leaf mulberry on growth performance, digestion and meat quality in growing rabbits

X.Z Wu, P.L. Yang, X.H. Gao, Z.G. Wen, S.F. Dai, M.X Zhu, L.X. Wang


This study aimed to investigate the effect of sundried big-leaf mulberry (BLM) as a replacement for alfalfa on the growth performance, digestibility of nutrients, nitrogen (N) utilisation and meat quality in New Zealand White rabbits. One hundred and sixty weaned rabbits, aged 35±1 d and with a body weight of 755±26 g, were randomly assigned to the 4 treatments with 20 replicates of 2 rabbits (1 male and 1 female) each. Animal performance was evaluated between the 35th and 77th d of age in 40 animals per treatment. The coefficients of total tract apparent digestibility (CTTAD) of nutrients and N utilisation were measured between 77 to 83 d of age in 30 animals per treatment. The control rabbits were fed a corn-soybean meal-alfalfa meal based diet. The three experimental groups were fed a similar diet in which the alfalfa meal was replaced by 10% (BLM10), 20% (BLM20), or 30% (BLM30) BLM. The final body weights and average daily gain were higher (P<0.05) in BLM20 rabbits compared to control and BLM30 rabbits. Although BLM inclusion had no effects on the CTTAD of dry matter, organic matter and crude protein (P>0.10), the CTTAD of ether extract was higher in rabbits fed the diets based on BLM (P<0.05). No effect of treatment was noted on ingested and faecal N. Urinary (P<0.05) and retained N (P<0.10) were higher in animals fed with BLM30 and BLM20 diets, respectively. Dietary BLM supplementation increased a* (P<0.05) and tended to reduce L* (P<0.10) in rabbit meat samples. It was concluded that replacing alfalfa meal with BLM (20%) can promote growth and increase ether extract digestibility. Additionally, dietary BLM supplementation can increase the redness value of meat.


big-leaf mulberry; digestibility; growth performance; meat quality; rabbit

Full Text:



Abu Hafsa S., Salem A., Hassan A., Kholif A., Elghandour M., Barbabosa A., Lopez S. 2016. Digestion, growth performance and caecal fermentation in growing rabbits fed diets containing foliage of browse trees. World Rabbit Sci., 24: 283-293. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2016.4359

AOAC International. 2005. Official methods of analysis of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists, 18th ed. Gaithersburg, MD, USA.

Blasco A., Ouhayoun J. 1996. Harmonization of criteria and terminology in rabbit meat research. Revised proposal. World Rabbit Sci., 4: 93-99. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.1996.278

Calvet S., Estellés F., Hermida B., Blumetto O., Torres A.G. 2008. Experimental balance to estimate efficiency in the use of nitrogen in rabbit breeding. World Rabbit Sci., 16: 205-211. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2008.615

CIE, 1976. Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage. Official recommendations on uniform colour spaces, colour difference equations and metric colour terms.

Dalle Zotte A., Cullere M., Rémignon H., Alberghini L., Paci G. 2016. Meat physical quality and muscle fibre properties of rabbit meat as affected by the sire breed, season, parity order and gender in an organic production system. World Rabbit Sci., 24: 145-154. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2016.4300

Deshmukh S.V., Pathak N.N., Takalikar D.A., Digraskar S.U. 1993. Nutritional effect of mulberry (“morus alba”) leaves as sole ration of adult rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 1: 67-69. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.1993.196

Gidenne T., Combes S., Fortun-Lamothe L. 2013. Protein replacement by digestible fibre in the diet of growing rabbits. 1: Impact on digestive balance, nitrogen excretion and microbial activity. Anim. Feed Sci. Tech., 183: 132-141. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2013.04.022

Lounaouci-Ouyed G., Berchiche M., Gidenne T. 2014. Effects of substitution of soybean meal-alfalfa-maize by a combination of field bean or pea with hard wheat bran on digestion and growth performance in rabbits in Algeria. World Rabbit Sci., 22: 137-146. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2014.1487

Ma M.R., Liu X.C., Zhu F.H. 2012. Study on biological characteristics and nutritional value of new type forage grass big-leaf mulberry. Acta Agriculturae Jiangxi, 24: 154-155. https://doi.org/10.19386/j.cnki.jxnyxb.2012.07.045

Martinez M., Motta W., Cervera C., Pla M. 2005. Feeding mulberry leaves to fattening rabbits: effects on growth, carcass characteristics and meat quality. Animal science (Penicuik, Scotland), 80: 275-281. https://doi.org/10.1079/ASC41110275

Mei-Rong M.A., Jin F.H., Dong D., Xiao-Heng W.U., Liu J.X., Polytechnic J. 2014. Effects of Replacing Soybean Meal with Different Levels of Big leaf Mulberry on Growth Performance,Slaughter Performance and Meat Quality in Growing Lambs. Chin. J. Anim. Sci., 50: 40-44. https://doi.org/10.3969/j.issn.0258-7033.2014.07.010

Mora-Valverde D. 2010. Consumo de Morera (Morus alba) fresca mezclada con ensilaje de maíz por el ganado Jersey en crecimiento. Agronomía Mesoamericana, 21: 337-341. https://doi.org/10.15517/am.v21i2.4897

Nakkitset S., Mikled C., Ledin I. 2008. Effect of Feeding Head Lettuce, Water Spinach, Ruzi grass or Mimosa pigra on Feed Intake, Digestibility and Growth in Rabbits. Asian-Australas J. Anim. Sci., 21: 1171-1177. https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.2008.70628

Ouhayoun J., Dalle Zotte A. 1996. Harmonization of muscle and meat criteria in rabbit meat research. World Rabbit Sci., 4: 211-218. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.1996.297

Pérez J.M., Lebas F., Gidenne T., Maertens L., Xiccato G., Parigi-Bini R., Dalle Zotte A. 1995. European reference method for in vivo determination of diet digestibility in rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 3: 41-43. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.1995.239

Rodriguez M., Carro M.D., Valiente V., Formoso-Rafferty N., Rebollar P.G. 2017. Effects of dietary fish oil supplementation on performance, meat quality, and cecal fermentation of growing rabbits. J. Anim. Sci., 95: 3620-3630. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2017.1690

Safwat A.M., Sarmiento-Franco L., Santos-Ricalde R.H., Nieves D., Sandoval-Castro C.A. 2015. Estimating Apparent Nutrient Digestibility of Diets Containing Leucaena leucocephala or Moringa oleifera Leaf Meals for Growing Rabbits by Two Methods. Asian-Australas J. Anim. Sci., 28: 1155-1162. https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.14.0429

Shang S.M., Wu Z.Y., Liu G.Y., Sun C.R., Ma M.W., C. Li F. 2017. Effect of substituting Guinea grass with soybean hulls on production performance and digestion traits in fattening rabbits. World Rabbit Sci., 25: 241. https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs.2017.6654

Statistical Analysis System. 2009. SAS/STAT User’s Guide 9.2,2 ed. Inst. Inc. Cary NC, USA.

Tu Y., Diao Q.Y., Zhang R., Yan G.L., Xiong W. 2009. Analysis on feed nutritive value of hybrid Broussonetia papyrifera leaf. Pratacultural Sci., 13: 30-34. https://doi.org/10.1016/0029-8018(90)90025-2

Van Soest P.J., Robertson J.B., Lewis B.A. 1991. Methods for dietary fiber, neutral detergent fiber, and nonstarch polysaccharides in relation to animal nutrition. J. Dairy Sci., 74: 3583-3597. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(91)78551-2

Wang Z., He Z., Gan X., Li H. 2018. Interrelationship among ferrous myoglobin, lipid and protein oxidations in rabbit meat during refrigerated and superchilled storage. Meat Sci., 146: 131-139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2018.08.006

Xiccato G., 2010. Fat digestion. In: C. de Blas, Wiseman J. eds. Nutrition of the Rabbit (2nd ed). Wallingford, UK: CAB International, 56-66.

Zhang X.F., Huang X., Zheng H.C., Wang Z.G., Jiang Y.Q., Liu J.X. 2015. Effects of Replacing Part of Corn, Bran and Soybean Meal with Different Levels of Fermented Bigleaf Mulberry on Growth and Slaughter Performances in Growth-finishing Pigs. Chin. J. Anim. Sci. https://doi.org/10.3969/j.issn.0258-7033.2015.23.010

Abstract Views

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


Cited-By (articles included in Crossref)

This journal is a Crossref Cited-by Linking member. This list shows the references that citing the article automatically, if there are. For more information about the system please visit Crossref site

1. Effects of Dietary Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) on Growth Performance and Muscle Quality of Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
Tao Tang, Jinhai Bai, Zhipeng Ao, Zehong Wei, Yi Hu, Shaojun Liu
Animals  vol: 11  issue: 6  first page: 1655  year: 2021  
doi: 10.3390/ani11061655


 Universitat Politècnica de València


Official journal of the World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA)


e-ISSN: 1989-8886     ISSN: 1257-5011   https://doi.org/10.4995/wrs