Effect of feeding programme before weaning on the production of rabbit does and their kits
The aim of the experiment was to analyse the effect of the feeding programme between 21 day of lactation and weaning on the production of rabbit does and their kits. The does were randomly housed in two rooms. In the first room, a continuous 16-hour light period was applied (16L; n=60). In the second room, an 8-hour light period was used which was extended by an additional 1 hour light period in the middle of the 16-hour long dark period 8 days prior to insemination (8+1L; n=59). In both rooms, two sub-groups were formed: in the first sub-group, does and their kits received breeding pellet from parturition to weaning (DE: 10.4 MJ/kg, crude protein: 17.8%, crude fibre: 13.6%; BB group; n=60 does, 228 parturitions); in the second sub-group, the breeding pellet was replaced by growing pellet from 21 days of lactation to weaning (DE: 9.7 MJ/kg, crude protein: 16.0%, crude fibre: 17.2%; BG group; n=59 does, 234 parturitions). The experiment was completed after 5 reproductive cycles. As no significant interaction was found between the lighting and feeding programmes, the two effects are evaluated separately. In this paper, the effect of feeding programme is discussed. No significant differences were observed between the BB and BG groups for number of inseminations per parturition, body weight of the does measured at parturition and at 21st day of lactation or for litter size. Changing the pellet in BG group significantly affected the body weight of the does measured at 35th day of lactation (4610 vs. 4530g, in BB and BG, respectively; P=0.016), the litter and individual body weight of the kits at day 35 (BB: 8160 vs. BG: 7834g, P=0.001; BB: 1006 vs. BG: 964g, P<0.001, respectively) and the does’ condition at kindling, as measured by the TOBEC method (E-value: BB: 1922 vs. BG: 1957, P=0.024). Productivity indexes, expressed as number of kits born alive, number of weaned (at day 35) kits and total weight of the weaned kits per year per doe were similar in the two groups. Body weight of the growing rabbits was significantly higher in the BB group at the ages of 5 and 7 weeks (984 and 937g, P<0.001, 1651 and 1621g, P=0.008; respectively). After this period, the body weight of the two groups was the same. The feeding programme had no effect on the feed conversion ratio and mortality of the two groups. According to the results, it may be concluded that it is preferable to avoid food changes around weaning.
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