Principles Of Rabbit nutrition- Profitable Business

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 Similar to other non-ruminants, however Rabbits have a large caecum for fibre digestion. Post-gastric (hind gut) fermenter. Fresh, clean drinking water and good quality hay and grass should make up the majority of your rabbits’ diet. A rabbit’s digestive system needs hay or grass to function properly so a healthy supply is extremely important. You can supplement with leafy greens and a small amount of pellets. In this article we will be focusing on rabbit nutrition and proper feeding rations for maximum productivity:

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Process Of Rabbit Digestion

◦Fermentation of cellulose and hemicellulose by bacterial enzymes in caecum to VFAs (like in rumen)

◦VFAs are converted to glucose which is absorbed through the walls of the large intestine

◦Micro-organisms in the caecum can also synthesize vitamin B and protein from NPN sources (urea, NH3)

◦Also available is the microbial protein pool Caecal fermentation means rabbits can produce much needed protein on relatively inexpensive feed.

◦roughages make up to 1/3rd of diet

 Rabbits practice coprophagy/caecotrophy

◦eating of large soft pellets of caecally fermented faeces (caecotrophs)


These are re-consumed for upper digestive tract digestion in order to access the protein from microbial sources for absorption and utilisation. After stomach digestion, separation of digester on the basis of particle size occurs in the hindgut. Peristaltic action rapidly moves large particles, primarily lignocellulose, through the colon and excretes them as hard faecal pellets. Anti-peristaltic action moves small particles and soluble material into the cecum, where they undergo fermentation

At intervals, the caecal contents are expelled as “soft faeces” and consumed by the rabbit directly from the anus. This re-ingested material provides microbial protein, vitamins (including all the B vitamins needed), and small quantities of VFAs, which are essential in rabbit nutrition. In order to facilitate complete digestion of fibrous materials in food through coprophagy, it might be necessary to have a sitting board in hutches with wire floors for the retention of night faeces. Otherwise, the caecotrophs are consumed by the rabbit directly from the anus

Nutritional requirements

Protein density in diets for rabbits

◦ Newly weaned rabbits  >18% CP

◦12-24 weeks old  16-18% CP

◦Breeder  15-17% CP

◦Other stocks (Normal growth)  12-14% CP

 Energy density required in rabbit diets

◦breeding rabbits is 2600-2700 Kcal DE/KgDM

◦2.0-3.0 MJ ME/KgDM feed

 Essential minerals

◦Ca, P, Mg, Na, K and Cl


◦A dietary supply of vitamins A, D, & E is necessary

◦B vitamins and vitamin K are synthesised in adequate quantities from non-protein nitrogen sources like urea and ammonia in the food; thus, dietary supplements are not necessary

 Diets containing ≥30% of alfalfa (lucerne) meal generally provide sufficient vitamin A

 Vitamin A deficiency is associated with


◦resorbed litters

◦foetal hydrocephalus

 Vitamin E deficiency has been associated with


◦muscular dystrophy

◦foetal and neonatal death

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Nutritional strategies

Commercial feed (intensive)

◦Complete pelleted feed

◦Breeding stock (18-20% CP; 13-15% CF)

◦Weaners (16-17%CP; 16-17% CF)

◦Fattening (15-16% CP; 14.5-15.5% CF)

◦Important for large numbers and intensive rearing systems

◦For commercial meat production, commercially prepared and balanced pellet rations and good quality greens and hay are required. Commercial pellets and mash must provide 18-20 % crude protein and not less than 13 % crude fibre


◦Ease to feed and automate feeding

◦Simultaneous consumption of all required nutrients

◦High levels of production

◦Little risk of disease introduction



Nutritional strategies

Forage (extensive system)

◦usually fresh grass, legume forage, extra garden produce, hay and grain, or grazing, kitchen waste

◦Grasses: couch grass, star grass, finger grass.

◦Weeds: blackjack (Bidens pilosa)

◦Tree foliage: orange, lemon, mango, and banana

◦Fruits: melons, mazhanje

◦Crop residues: groundnut leaves, Bambara nuts, bean leaves, cowpea leaves, sweet potato leaves

◦Vegetables: cabbage, lettuce, spinach, rape, carrots, beans

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Forage (extensive system)


◦Low cost alternative

◦Easy to provide the quantity of food required


◦Forage availability varies with season

◦The quality of the forage reduces during dry season

◦It is labour intensive

◦It can introduce diseases and health problems

 Poisonous plants

◦Never use them

◦Irish potato leaves, tomatoes,  egg plant, pepper,  onion, garlic, and nearly all plants that grow from bulbs

◦Vegetables treated with any insecticide, or fungicide


 Daily allocations per animal:

Class of rabbit  Quantity (g/d)

   Buck  85-112

  Doe   85-112

  *Pregnant does   168-224

  Lactating does   350-400

  Fryer/fattening  Free choice

*Increase gradually throughout pregnancy

 For fattening rabbits, VFI is around 100-150g/day with LWG around 35-40g/d

 A pregnant doe and working buck require 120g/d pellets with adequate greens, lucerne or hay fed to appetite

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Suggested Feeding Schedule


◦Morning: Concentrates or rabbit pellets

◦Mid-day: Green feed

◦Evening: Green feed

◦Water – should be continuously available

 Changes of diet should be avoided or be gradual

 Water requirements

◦adult rabbit  0,5litres daily

◦doe and litter  3,5litres

Rabbit and hare meat are excellent sources of protein. Protein also keeps us healthy by building and repairing our muscles, skin and blood. Rabbit and hare meat are excellent sources of iron. Iron helps make healthy blood that flows through our bodies, giving us energy to be active and to grow strong

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Chivalrous Curie

Dr Jacinth Anesu Kuri is a certified Animal Production Scientist from Harare Zimbabwe. He is the CEO of a prominent NGO in Zimbabwe called Agric Tech Opportunities. He is the founder of AgricTech Charities Foundation. Trained by Campuslifestyle to be an IT expect and Web developer And Chief Blogger.

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