Effect of feed restriction and feeding plans on performance, slaughter traits and body composition of growing rabbits

Marco Birolo, Angela Trocino, Marco Tazzoli, Gerolamo Xiccato


Two feeding systems (L, ad libitum vs. R, feed restriction) were combined with 3 feeding plans (MM, MH, HH) to evaluate the effects on performance, slaughter results, body composition and nitrogen balance of 300 commercial crossbred rabbits kept individually from weaning to slaughter (34-70 d of age). The R rabbits were fed from 80% (first days on trial) to 100% (end of 3rd wk) of ad libitum intake, whereafter R rabbits had free access to feed. The 3 feeding plans were: MM plan, M diet with moderate digestible energy (DE) content, 10.6 MJ/kg, throughout the trial; HH plan, H diet with high DE content, 11.1 MJ/kg, throughout the trial; MH plan, M diet for the first 3 wk and H diet for the last 2 wk. Feed restriction did not affect nutrient digestibility, growth rate on the whole trial and slaughter results, but improved feed conversion (2.96 vs. 2.89 in L and R rabbits, respectively; P<0.01) and reduced N excretion (2.16 vs. 2.07 g excreted N/d, in L and R rabbits; P<0.05). At the end of the first period (55 d), R rabbits showed lower empty body protein, lipid, and gross energy gains than L rabbits, but differences disappeared within the end of the trial. The HH plan improved feed conversion (2.97 vs. 2.89 for MM vs. HH; P<0.05), but increased excreted N (2.03 vs. 2.17 g/d; P<0.001) in comparison with the MM plan due to the higher digestible protein/DE ratio of H diet, whereas the MH plan showed intermediate results. In conclusion, a moderate feed restriction during post weaning improved feed conversion and reduced N excretion without negative effects on growth or slaughter results. Moreover, N excretion was confirmed to depend largely on dietary nitrogen content.


feed restriction; feeding plans; growth performance; body composition; nitrogen excretion; rabbit

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