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GROWTH RESPONSE OF RABBIT TO DIET SUPPLEMENTED OF MAIZE AND CASSAVA

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ABSTRACT

A study involving two experiments was conducted to investigate the growth performance of rabbits fed diets containing graded levels of maize and cassava. Thirty-two weaner rabbits of about 6 weeks old were used for the study. In experiment1, sixteen 6-week old hybrid (Chinchilla x New Zealand white) weaner rabbits of both sexes with initial average weight of 730-790g were randomly divided into four groups of 4 rabbits each. The groups were randomly assigned to four treatment diets containing 0, 10, 20 and 30% levels of maize. Each treatment group was replicated four times with a rabbit constituting a replicate placed in a four –tier rabbit cages that had a total of 16 hutches per tier. In experiment two, 16 six-week old hybrid (Chinchilla x New Zealand white) weaner rabbits of both sexes with initial average weight of 730-790g were randomly divided into four groups of 4 rabbits each. The groups were randomly assigned to four treatment diets containing 0, 10, 20 and 30% levels of Cassava. Each treatment group was replicated four times with a rabbit constituting a replicate placed in a four –tier rabbit cages that had a total of 16 hutches per tier.. The results obtained in the present study show that up to 10% maize and 30% cassava can be included in rabbits’ diet without any deleterious effect on growth performance, haematology and internal organs of rabbits.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.1 INTRODUCTION

Although Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world with great potentials and brilliant experts in different fields of endeavour, her inability to break away from the class of the world’s poorest nation and from the shackles of poverty despite her rich natural and human endowment is a thing of pain (Olatunbosun, 2001). According to Nigerianet (2003), Nigeria is the largest geographical unit in Africa with a land area of 923,768 square kilometer. Central Bank of Nigeria (2002) reported Nigeria’s population to be 129.9 million in 2004 based on the projected annual growth rate of 2.8% of the revised 1991 census. At this given growth rate, the estimated population of Nigeria would be 141.1 million in 2007. In spite of Nigeria’s numerous natural resources which are sufficient to make her self-reliant in animal protein production and even become main exporter of all kinds of food items, there is an acute shortage of animal protein in Nigeria. The demand for animal protein is far higher than the supply. The high cost of animal protein has put it out of the reach of the average Nigerian (Ani and Adiegwu, 2005; Ugwuene 2003). Mbanasor (2000) estimated Nigeria’s livestock resource to consist of about 14 million cattle, 34 million goat, 22 million sheep, 100 million poultry and 1 million horses. In a similar report, Abubakar et al. (2003) estimated the livestock population of Nigeria to be about 14 million cattle, 22.1 million sheep, and 345 million goats. In spite of Nigeria’s high population of domestic animals, animal protein supply is still far below the minimum level of 35g per day as recommended by FAO (1997). The fact that some developed countries with lesser natural resources can boast of self sufficiency and their ability to export animal protein calls for sober reflection among Nigerians. On this note, for quick increased supply of animal protein and products to be met, it is necessary that animals with short generation intervals be reared. One of the domestic animals with short generation interval to be considered in this study is the domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

The domestic rabbit has the potential to become one of the world’s most important livestock specie (Daily Times, 1981). In terms of commercial production, the rabbit excels other livestock; cattle, sheep and goat and ranks close to broiler chicken in terms of growth rate, feed conversion efficiency and meat quantity, (Adegbola et al., 1986). Lebas and Metheron (1982) found that the production of 1 kg of rabbit meat requires only a quarter of the feed energy needed to produce the same amount of Pork. El Amin (1978) reported that it was theoretically possible to obtain 206kg of meat in a year from a doe (assuming 15kits per litter, 10 litters in a year at market weight of 2.5kg and 55% carcass yield on slaughter). Abe (1988) reported that about 20% of feed protein consumed by the rabbit is converted into edible meat. Nutritionally, rabbit has a higher protein (20-21%), low fat content (10-11%), when compared with meat from other species (Ajayi et al., 2007). Furthermore Janieri et al. (1987) had reported that rabbit meat has the cholesterol value of 169mg/100g (dry matter basis) when compared with beef (200mg), chicken (220mg), and low sodium content. Consequently, rabbit meat has been listed in United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) as an approved meat source for hypertensive patients. The resurgence of interest in rabbit production in Nigeria calls for research into alternative sources of energy and protein yielding ingredients to replace or supplement the expensive conventional cereal grains and legumes. The prices of such conventional protein and energy feed ingredients such as maize, rice, sorghum, ground nut, soybean have escalated in recent times that it is becoming uneconomical to use them in rabbit feeds (Esonu et al., 2001, Esonu et al., 2004; Oduguwa et al., 2004). There is therefore an urgent need to search for alternative cheap and available feed ingredients that do not attract competition between man and animal to formulate balanced rations for non ruminant animals like the domestic rabbit. Two of such alternative materials that meet the above criteria are cassava and maize.

1.2     Objective of the study

The study aims at determining the nutrient intake, digestibility and utilization by rabbits fed maize and Cassava based diet.

The specific objectives of the study are as follows:

  • To determine the dietary levels of maize and cassava on growth performance of rabbits.
  • To determine the optimum levels of inclusion of cowpea and Cassava in the diets of growing rabbits.
  • To determine the effects of graded levels of maize and cassava on haematology and organ characteristic of rabbits.
  • To determine the cost implication of feeding graded levels of maize and cassava to rabbits
  • To determine the gross pathological effects on and mortality of rabbits fed graded levels of maize and cassava.

 

1.3 Justification and Significance of Study

The current acute shortage of animal feed in Nigeria and the increased demand for livestock products call for urgent solution. Increased rabbit production is one sure way of meeting the animal protein requirement of the Nigerian populace within the shortest possible time (Iyegbe – Erakpotobor et al., 2002). Rabbits do not compete with man for the scarce conventional feed ingredients. The inclusion of maize and cassava in the diets of growing rabbit will definitely reduce the cost of production and thus result in increased rabbit production thereby making the meat available to the Nigerian populace at reduced price.

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