The Journal of Agricultural Science

Research Article

Protein and energy retention by growing rabbits offered diets with increasing proportions of fibre

G. G. Partridgea1, P. H. Garthwaitea2 and M. Findlaya1

a1 Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB2 9SB

a2 Department of Statistics, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen


Ninety-six young rabbits (48 males, 48 females) each weighing 08 kg were offered one of six diets to appetite (n = 8 per treatment) or at one of four restricted feeding levels (n = 2 per treatment). All animals were culled at ca. 2 kg body weight and carcass analysis was carried out. Nutrient retention was estimated by the comparative slaughter technique.

Five of the experimental diets (A–E) were formulated to contain increasing concentrations of a poor-quality grassmeal (0, 100, 300, 500 and 700 g/kg, respectively), the remainder of the diet consisting predominantly of ground oats and soya-bean meal. A sixth diet (F) was based on a common laboratory rabbit diet (SGI). All diets contained similar digestible crude protein (DCP): digestible energy (DE) ratios of ca. 13·1 g DCP/MJ DE. Acid detergent fibre concentrations in diets A–F were 146, 158, 213, 264, 321 and 180 g/kg dry matter (D.M.), respectively.

When feeding to appetite, growth rates were depressed at the highest inclusions of grassmeal (diets D and E). Growth rates (GR) and voluntary food intakes (VFI) for diets A–F were: GR (g/day): 40, 41, 43, 36, 30 and 40; VFI (g D.M./day): 93, 103, 120, 137, 159 and 111, respectively. The depression in growth rate on diets D and E was associated with a reduction in total daily DCP and DE intake. The data suggested that, when the DE content of the diet falls below 10·5 MJ/kg D.M., the young rabbit is unable to compensate further by increasing daily VFI. Males grew significantly faster than females (40 cf. 37 g/day) and females had fatter carcasses at slaughter (301 cf. 274 g fat/kg carcass D.M.).

Relationships between daily N and energy intake and their retention in the body of the growing rabbit were calculated using data from both restricted and ad libitum-fed animals. Daily energy retention (ER, kJ) was related to daily DE intake (DEI, kJ) by the equation: ER = –227 + 6 x DEI (b ranged from 0·407 to 0·502, according to diet).

The estimated maintenance energy requirement of the growing rabbit ranged from 351 to 434 kJDE/kg0·75 per day and the average value across all diets was 377 kJ DE/kg0·75 per day.

Daily N retention (NR, g) was related to daily digestible nitrogen intake (DNI, g) by the equation: NR = –0·398 + 6 x DNI (b ranged from 0·589 to 0·667, according to diet).

The estimated N requirement for maintenance ranged between 0·464 and 0·525 g DN/kg0·75 per day and the average value across all diets was 0·497 g DN/kg0·75 per day.

(Revised September 05 1988)

(Received September 05 1988)