Effect of substituting guinea grass with sunflower hulls on production performance and digestion traits in fattening rabbits

G.Y. Liu, C.R. Sun, X.Y. Zhao, H.L. Liu, Z.Y. Wu, F.C. Li


The objective of this study was to evaluate the use of sunflower hulls (SH) to substitute guinea grass (GG), traditionally used as a fibre source in the diets of fattening rabbits, on production performance, coefficients of total tract apparent digestibility (CTTAD) of nutrients, gastrointestinal tract development and caecal fermentation. A total of 160 mixed sex Hyla commercial meat rabbits were allocated to 4 experimental groups (40 per treatment) differing in the SH level inclusion in the diet offered to rabbits from 40 to 90 d of age: 0, 30, 60 and 90 g/kg on as-fed basis: SH0, SH30, SH60 and SH90 groups, respectively. Growth performance was recorded from 47 to 90 d of age, CTTAD of nutrients from 86 to 90 d of age, and gastrointestinal tract development, caecal fermentation and carcass traits were determined at 90 d of age. Increasing substitutions of SH in the diet indicated effects on growth performance, as higher feed intake and lower feed efficiency were observed in SH90 compared with SH0 (P-linear<0.05). Moreover, the higher SH substitution diet (SH60 and SH90) increased the relative caecum weight (P-linear<0.05). A linear negative effect of SH inclusion was observed for the digestibility of neutral detergent fibre (CTTAD from 0.294 to 0.232) and acid detergent fibre (CTTAD from 0.182 to 0.136; P-linear<0.05). Dietary SH substitution level had a quadratic effect on the villus height of the duodenum, jejunum and ileum obtained (P-quadratic<0.05), and the highest were observed in the SH60 group. There was a quadratic effect on the pH of caecum content (P-quadratic<0.05), and the lowest was 6.08 in SH30 group. The total volatil fatty acids increased linearly with increasing SH in diets (from 71.11 to 76.98 mmol/L; P-linear<0.05), and when dietary SH increased, the proportion of acetate tended to increase (P-linear<0.05), and the proportions of propionic and butyric were decreased (P-linear<0.05, respectively). Substitution of GG with SH had no effect on carcass characteristics and meat quality. The current work shows that SH can replace up to 60 g/kg in diets for fattening rabbits, with no adverse impact on aspects of production performance or digestion traits.


caecal fermentation; gastrointestinal development; production performance; sunflower hull; rabbit

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 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