Growth of fryers reared and(or) finished using controlled grazing in movable pens


  • J. McNitt Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center
  • R. Way Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center
  • M. Way Rumbleway Farm
  • I. Forrester-Anderson Morgan State University



rabbits, pasture, grass finishing, housing


The productivity of fryer rabbits kindled in conventional hanging wire cages in a building and finished in a pasture pen (InOut), kindled and reared in a pasture pen (OutOut) or kindled and reared in the cages (OutOut) was compared to determine the feasibility of pasturing as a means of production. The pens were divided into four 120 x 120 cm compartments and placed on an established 80% orchard grass: 20% alfalfa-clover sward overlaid with chicken wire. The pens were moved to a new location each day for fresh grazing. Litters from eight does that kindled in cages and four that kindled in outdoor pens were used. At 42 days the fryers were weaned and 24 fryers born in the indoor cages were randomly assigned to cages within the barn (InIn) and 24 to outside pens (InOut). Thirty two of the fryers born in outdoor pens were randomly assigned to one of four outdoor pens (OutOut). The kits were weighed on days 42 (weaning), 55, 82 and 104. At day 104, the rabbits were processed and carcass and kidney fat weights recorded. Because of mortality, there were 23 InIn carcasses, 21 InOut carcasses and 30 OutOut carcasses. Data were analyzed using the General Linear Models Procedure of SAS. InIn fryers had higher (P<0.01) growth rates, final weights, carcass weights and kidney fat weights than the InOut or OutOut fryers (28.0±0.6 g/d, 2640±47 g, 1385±29 g and 15.4±1.0 g for InIn vs. 23.4±0.6 g/d, 2307±49 g, 1187±30 g and 5.4±1.0 g for InOut and 22.7±0.5 g/d, 2156±41 g, 1096±25 g and 0.9±0.9 g for OutOut, respectively). The InOut rabbits were numerically intermediate between the InIn and OutOut groups for all traits. Rearing and finishing rabbits in movable pens on pasture can result in reasonable rates of production which might be helpful in satisfying the demands of consumers who are willing to pay extra for the more naturally produced, grass-finished product.


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