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The effect of 1-week feed restriction on performance, digestibility of nutrients and digestive system development in the growing rabbit

  • E. Tůmová (a1), Z. Volek (a2), D. Chodová (a1), H. Härtlová (a3), P. Makovický (a3), J. Svobodová (a1), T. A. Ebeid (a4) and L. Uhlířová (a1)...

A 3 to 4 week feed restriction of about 20% to 25% of the free intake is widely applied in rabbit breeding systems to reduce post-weaning digestive disorders. However, a short intensive feed restriction is described in few studies and can be beneficial for growing rabbits due to a longer re-alimentation period. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of ad libitum (AL) and two restriction levels of feeding (50 and 65 g/rabbit per day) applied for 1 week on performance, gastrointestinal morphology and physiological parameters during the restriction and during the re-alimentation period. Rabbits were divided into three experimental groups: AL rabbits were fed AL, R1 rabbits were restricted from 42 to 49 days of age and received 50 g daily (29% of AL) and R2 rabbits were restricted at the same age and were fed 65 g of feed daily (37% of AL). In the 1st week after weaning and in the weeks after restriction, all the groups were fed AL. During the restriction period, daily weight gain (DWG) in R1 significantly dropped to 11% (experiment 1) and 5% (experiment 2) compared with rabbits in the AL group, although they were fed 29% of AL, whereas in the R2 group it decreased to 20% (experiment 1) and 10% (experiment 2). In the week following feed restriction, DWG in the restricted groups increased (P<0.001) to 166% and 148% in R1 and to 128% and 145% in R2. Restricted rabbits in both the experiments reached up to 90% to 93% of the final live weight (70 days) of the AL group. Over the entire experimental period, feed restriction significantly decreased feed intake to 85% to 88% of the AL group; however, the feed conversion ratio was lower (P<0.05) only in experiment 1 (−6% in R1 and −4% in R2). Digestibilities of CP and fat were not significantly higher during the restriction period and during the 1st week of re-alimentation compared with the AL group. Significant interactions between feeding regime and age revealed the shortest large intestine in the AL group at 49 days of age and the longest at 70 days in the AL and R1 groups. Small intestinal villi were significantly higher and the crypts were significantly deeper in the restricted groups. It could be concluded that short intensive feed restriction increased digestible area in the small and large intestines, including the height of villi and depth of crypts, which might be involved in the compensatory growth and defence mechanism.

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