FEED REQUIREMENTS OF RABBIT
The nutritional requirement of rabbits, as is in the case of other mammals, varies according to age and productive performance.To obtain effective feeding efficiency, diets should be formulated to meet the needs of animals of a particular age or stage of production.Most rabbit farms are not large enough to justify the use of several different feeds, so it is a common practice to use just one diet for the entire herd. Since rabbit farming is becoming more intensive, it is suggested that rabbit producers should use at least two diets, a grower diet for fryers and a lactation diet for does.
Read also: Rabbit pregnancy, birth and baby care
(a) Nutrient Requirements for Growth
Creep diets.Creep diets are those diet which are fed to baby since requirements for growth are highest in them. This is decreased with increase of age. The baby rabbit is capable of a much greater growth rate than in commonly observed with this diet. In view of the higher cost of creep diet, creep feeding does not appear to be an economically sound practice in rabbit production now a days.
(b)Nutrition Requirement at Weaning
It is the period when as animals diet changes from milk to solid feeds. It is suggested that at weaning, a high-fibre, low-starch diet might be beneficial, followed by a switch to two weeks later to a high-starch diet; at which time the capacity of the animal to digest starch might be higher.For maximum production efficiency, a feeding system using a highly palatable, high-fibre diet at weaning with a switch to a high carbohydrate fattening ratio may be beneficial.
(c) Requirement of Diets at Gestation/Lactation
Lactating does have higher requirements for protein, energy, calcium and phosphorus than do fryers. For maximum production at least 18% CP is required. Since, does in commercial leads are simultaneously pregnant and lactating, the same diet can be used for both gestation and lactation. During periods when does are not with litters, restricted feeding should be practiced to avoid obesity.Peak lactation in rabbits occur 21 days post kindling. In does bred 24-48 hr. postpartum, milk production declines rapidly after 21 days of lactation, and the mammary glands prepare for the initiation of a new lactation period.
d) Lactation Diets in Rabbits
Ingredient Composition %
Alfalfa meal 40.0
Ground barley 20.25
Wheat mill run 20.0
Soybean meal 14.0
Dicalcium phosphate 0.75
Salt (trace, mineral) 0.5
Alfalfa meal 30.0
Ground oats 26.5
Ground barley 23.0
Soybean meal 16.0
Dicalcium phosphate 1.0
Salt (trace, mineralized) 0.5
Read also: Suitable environment for rabbits
(e) Complementary Diets
In certain conditions, particularly with the small scale rabbit production, it may be desirable to feed hay or greens free of choice and supplement this diet with a restricted quantity of high energy, high protein concentrate.
A pregnant doe may consume 200 to 250 g of balanced pelleted feed combined with good green grasses. Grass can be provided @ 100 g/day
1. Feed Consumption
Daily feed consumption is about 5% of body weight. Daily water consumption is about 10% of body weight. Lactating does will require more water and food. A rabbit keeper should made the diet schedule accordingly. Clean fresh water should be made available at all times.
2. Feeding of Rabbit
Milk is the only food for baby rabbit up to the age of 15 to 21 days. The baby rabbits those can suckle used to survive and non-sucker may die. The rabbit keeper should ensure milk in does by providing plenty of water and food. The young rabbit will start to eat solid foods (grass, concentrate) along with mother’s milk from 15 to 21 days. After 21 days or so they eat more solids and suckle less. From weaning time onwards the rabbits should be provided with more green food, vegetables and concentrates.
3. Time of Feeding
It will be a wise proposition if the food is offered in a particular time of the day. All concentrate rations may be provided at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Fresh bulky feeds may be offered in the evening since the rabbit remains more active during that time. All kind of foods should be fresh, clean and free from dirt.
4. Some Consideration on Feeding
Fresh grasses or legumes may be included in the ration to a level of 70%.
50% legumes plus 50% grasses may afford minimum dietary requirement for resting does and bucks.
Dustiness of mash may be avoided by adding water to moisten the feed slightly.
Ensurement may be made to avoid acidity (sour) of feed since sour feed is not liked by rabbit.
Clean and fresh water may be made available at all seasons.
Does may not be fed with heavy diet right after kindling.
Feed of does may be increased after 5-7 days of kindling.
Abrupt change in the quality or quantity of feed may be avoided.
Molasses at the rate of 5% may be added to the diet to increase acceptability of the diet.
A small quantity of hay/straw may be fed in addition to the compound feed to prevent boredom and to provide bulk.
Rapeseed oil mea! may be heated before inclusion in the diet. It may be fed below 15% levels in diet.
High calcium diet may interfere with the acceptance of does to the offspring and thus may affect the growth of the litters, therefore diet should not contain excess calcium.
Dry does, bucks and replacement stock may be fed once a day at the rate of 100-120 gm of pellet feeds.
Young rabbits in growing stages and lactating does may be fed free of choice by keeping grain/pellets in the feeder at all times.
Good quality legumes may be kept before the rabbits in addition to pellet ration.
Carrots, green grass, spinach, turnip, lucerne, barseem etc. may be provided as good succulent feed for rabbits.
Other feed stuffs such as kitchen wastes, spoilt milk, damaged fruits may be fed by small farmers but they should be fed with caution considering their deleterious effects.
Read also: Digestibility in the rabbit diet
5. Utensil for Feeding
A good number of watering utensils and feeders are used in the rabbit cages. The feeders may be attached to the rabbit cages so that feed can be put from outside. The feeder should be kept at 5-8 cm high so as to minimize contamination of feed by faeces, urine or water. Open food and water bowls are less hygienic than hoppers and water bottles. Earthen and aluminium bowls could be used since they are cheaper from economic stand point. Hoppers should be made as such so that food can not split out. The water bottles if used should be cleaned properly. Filling and cleaning of water bottles in large farm may require considerable time, therefore, automatic watering systems are gaining importance in big rabbitry. The feeder, whatever may be the nature should be cleaned properly each day before use. Various types of feeders, hoppers, water bottle and hay racks are there.
Leaves of Murukku, Agathi and cultivated fodder grasses like guinea, napier and Para grass are palatable to rabbits apart from the leguminous fodder such as cowpea, Lucerne, stylosanthes etc.
The rabbits should be supplied adequate quantity of fresh clean water (they drink approximately 10 ml/100g body weight per day and up to 90 ml/100 g body weight if lactating).
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