Feeding rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus ) with tree fruits from tropical deciduous forest

Eliceo Hernández-Hernández, Silvia López-Ortiz, Manuel Villarruel-Fuentes, Ponciano Pérez-Hernández, Joel Velasco-Velasco, Josafhat Salinas-Ruíz

Abstract

The dietary preference and voluntary intake of fruits from Acacia cochliacantha, Caesalpinia cacalaco, Vachellia pennatula, Chloroleucon mangense, Senna atomaria and Guazuma ulmifolia [containing 8.5-13.6% crude protein (CP) and 25.9-72.9% neutral detergent fibre (NDF) on dry matter (DM) basis], and the partial replacement of a commercial diet with 0, 15, 30 and 45% G. ulmifolia fruit were studied in rabbits. Rabbits fed a standard diet (17.9% CP and 28.4% NDF) were used to study their preference (during 20-min periods) for 6 ground fruits (Experiment 1: 12 rabbits, from 45 to 56 d of age and 1180±114 g live weight [LW]), 6 pelleted fruits (Experiment 2: same rabbits from 57 to 68 d of age), and the voluntary intake of the 5 most preferred pelleted fruits (Experiment 3: 18 rabbits from 70 to 81 d of age and 2200±200 g LW). Then, we examined the inclusion of G. ulmifolia fruit up to 45% in the diet (Experiment 4: 12 rabbits/diet from 25 to 66 d of age, and 419±80 g initial LW). When ground fruits were offered, rabbits tended to prefer C. mangense (0.83±0.12 g DM; P<0.05), and when offered as pellets they preferred G. ulmifolia (4.50±0.47 g DM; P<0.05), as well as in Experiment 3 (36.9±3.11 g DM/d; P<0.05). Substitution of a commercial diet with 15, 30 and 45% G. ulmifolia fruits in Experiment 4 resulted in higher DM intake when fruits were included in the diet, across all experimental periods (25-38, 39-66 and 25-66 d; P<0.001). Feeding up to 30% of fruits improved growth rate from 25 to 38 d of age (P<0.001) and produced similar growth rates to the control treatment from 25 to 66 d of age. Feed efficiency was impaired above 15% substitution level during the 25-38 d period (P>0.05) and in all groups fed G. ulmifolia in the 25-66 d period (P<0.001). Guazuma ulmifolia appears to have the greatest potential as a supplementary feed for rabbits in the pelleted form. Its inclusion up to 15% in the diet might render a similar performance to that of rabbits fed commercial diets.


Keywords

preference; voluntary intake; rabbit performance; diet; tropical trees.

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References

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