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Feeding the rabbit from meat

Feeding the rabbit from meat

Feeding the rabbit from meat

In nature, the wild rabbit feeds on a wide range of foods with the most varied nutritional values. Spontaneous herbs, roots and berries make up its main diet. Even in traditional farms, where production aims to meet the needs of individual families, there is a tendency to feed the rabbit with fodder usually found in the surroundings and sometimes even with leftovers from the house (mainly fruit and vegetables ). A feeding of this type, even in its authenticity, involves a slow and uneven growth of the animals, preventing a standardization of the production.
In the profitable breeding of the rabbit for meat, both industrial and biological, it is instead necessary to provide the animals with a food that is as uniform as possible.
To meet this need, so-called balanced feeds have been formulated which are constant both from a nutritional and physical point of view as they are sold in the form of pellets (Fig. 1), that is small cylinders of 1-2 mm in diameter and average length of 1-1.5 cm. These pellets have the characteristic of providing a homogeneous feeding and thus preventing the animal from choosing the most palatable food at the expense of the correct intake of the various nutrients necessary for a correct growth and maintenance. Providing an adequate ration in the various phases of the animal's life and especially in critical moments such as growth, gestation and breastfeeding already means having correctly fulfilled more than half of the management obligations. Feeding not only depends on the speed of fattening and the production of meat but also on the quality of the meat itself and, above all, also influences the health status of the animals. Furthermore, since the rabbit has continuously growing teeth, a food of a certain hardness will be indispensable in order to allow a physiological consumption of the dental surfaces which would otherwise undergo an abnormal development with often catastrophic consequences on the health of the animal.
The importance of food is also evident from an economic point of view as it constitutes the most relevant item in the expenditure chapter, representing alone more than 60% of production costs.
The feed can be administered rationed, that is, in a limited quantity but still sufficient to cover the needs of the animals according to the physiological state and the weight, or ad libitum therefore leaving the individual subject the possibility to adjust according to their needs.
Ad libitum nutrition is usually chosen for a matter of convenience.
Furthermore, it should be noted that not all feeds are the same but there are specific ones for the different production phases of the animal:
- starter: used for rabbits during weaning
- for fattening: given to growing rabbits until slaughter and lactating females
- from breeding: for feeding the breeding animals
- medicated: food containing pharmacological molecules intended for the prophylaxis or therapy of certain pathologies
The aforementioned feeds differ from each other in their nutrient content (See table - Feed composition in the various phases of the production cycle (from Lebas, 1981).

Fig. 1 - Balanced feed in the form of pellets

ComponentGraftingLactationPregnancyRetentionMangimeunico

Crude protein

15%

18%

15%

13%

17%

Ethereal extract

3%

5%

3%

3%

3%

Raw fiber

14%

12%

14%

15-16%

14%

Digestible energy

2,500 Kcal / Kg

2.700 Kcal / Kg

2,500 Kcal / Kg

2,200 Kcal / Kg

2,500 Kcal / Kg

Metabolisable energy

2,400 Kcal / Kg

2,600 Kcal / Kg

2,400 Kcal / Kg

2,120 Kcal / Kg

2,410 Kcal / Kg


Again for reasons of practicality, it is often preferred to give animals a single cycle type feed that is well suited to all phases of the production cycle with the following composition (See table - Composition of the single cycle type feed (from Balasini, 2001).

Component

Percentage

Raw protids

17-18%

Raw fiber

14%

Digestible energy

2,600 Kcal / Kg


If necessary, a supplement based on hay (alfalfa, clover, sainfoin, etc.) can be added as a complement to the ration, provided that it is of good quality and free of dust and mold.

The importance of fiber

Fiber is one of the fundamental components of the rabbit's diet which, in nature, feeds mainly on wild herbs and autonomously regulates its intake. In rabbits, fiber digestion takes place in the blind because, unlike polygastrics, it does not have a rumen.
At a blind level, the fiber, and in particular the cellulose which is its main component, is demolished by the microflora present and transformed into AGV or volatile fatty acids (acetic acid, propionic acid and butyric acid) absorbed in turn by the intestinal walls. These AGVs are able to cover, by themselves, up to 30% of the maintenance energy needs.
In addition to energy production, fiber contributes to the regulation of intestinal peristalsis and therefore digestion.
To do this it is necessary that it is present, in the ration, in percentages between 14-20% but never below 10%.
It is also important that lignin, a fibrous and indigestible component of the fiber, is present in a high percentage (more or less 85%) and that it is of the long type therefore it is good not to grind the forage too finely.
The fiber also influences the energy and protein content of the ration as a feed with an unbalanced ratio between the aforementioned components predisposes to digestive disorders such as diarrhea or constipation.

Dr. Cristiano Papeschi - University of Tuscia (VT)

Coniglicoltura
Professional breeding of rabbit for meat and affection
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