Preslaughter feed withdrawal time and its effect on rabbit blood measures, gastrointestinal tract parameters and Longissimus lumborum glycolytic potential




fasting, glycolytic potential, muscle, preslaughter management, rabbit, stress


This study aimed to characterise the physiological response of rabbits to feed withdrawal without stress caused by crating and transport to the slaughterhouse. A total of 72 recently weaned Grimaud rabbits were allocated into 12 cages, each with 6 rabbits (3 females and 3 males, to reflect commercial practices). A preslaughter feed withdrawal time (FWT) was randomly assigned to each of the 12 cages (t=0, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22 or 24 h). Blood lactate and cortisol concentrations were measured at exsanguination. These observations did not indicate an elevated level of stress in the rabbits (P>0.05). The maximum Longissimus lumborum glycolytic potential was observed for rabbits that fasted for 3 and 6 h and was relatively stable from 127.78 to 139.04 μmol/g for rabbits with FWT longer than 12 h. As expected, gastrointestinal tract and stomach content weights were lower for rabbits with longer FWT (P<0.0001), while caecum weights did not (P=0.051). Rabbits with longer FWT had lower stomach pH and higher caecum pH (both P<0.0001). Metataxonomic 16S analysis revealed that FWT had a significant effect (all P<0.01) on microbiome beta diversity in faeces and caecum. The polymerase chain reaction analysis using specific primers revealed Enterobacteriaceae presence in the faeces of male rabbits only at 18 and 22 h. Our results suggest that the caecotrophic behaviour of rabbits allows them to be particularly resistant to hunger despite their small size. However, to limit Enterobacteriaceae shedding, the FWT should not exceed 18 h.


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Author Biographies

Anne-Sophie Larivière-Lajoie, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science.

PhD graduate student involved in meat quality.

Pascal Laforge, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science

Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF)

Antony T. Vincent, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science.

Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF).

Institut de Biologie Intégrative et des Systèmes (IBIS).

Simon Binggeli, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science

Dany Cinq-Mars, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science

Frédéric Guay, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science

Frédéric Raymond, Université Laval

Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF)

Antoni Dalmau, Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology

IRTA Tecnología de los Alimentos

Linda Saucier, Université Laval

Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science.

Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF)



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