Effect of group size and stocking density on productive, carcass, meat quality and aggression traits of growing rabbits
Keywords:growing rabbit, group size, stocking density, productive erformance, meat quality, ear lesion
AbstractThe aim of the experiment was to examine the effect of group size and stocking density on productive, carcass and meat quality traits. The trial was conducted using 230 Pannon white rabbits weaned at 5 weeks and reared until the age of 11 weeks. Seven groups were formed with different cage/pen sizes (group size) and stocking densities: SC16=small cage (0.12 m2), 16 rabbits/m2 (2 rabbits/cage); LC16=large cage (0.50 m2), 16 rabbits/m2 (8 rabbits/cage); LC12=large cage, 12 rabbits/m2 (6 rabbits/cage); SP16=small pen (0.86 m2), 16 rabbits/m2 (13 rabbits/cage); SP12=small pen, 12 rabbits/m2 (10 rabbits/cage); LP16=large pen (1.72 m2), 16 rabbits/m2 (26 rabbits/cage); LP12=large pen, 12 rabbits/m2 (20 rabbits/cage). Stocking density did not affect production significantly, as stocking densities lower than 16 rabbits/m2 had no effect on the growing rabbits? performance. Group size (size of the cage or pen) had an effect on certain growth, carcass and meat quality traits. Increasing group size resulted in lower values for weight gain (SC: 39.2>LC: 39.0> SP: 38.7> LP: 37.8 g/d; P=0.22) and body weight (SC: 2506>LC: 2498> SP: 2487> LP: 2446 g; P=0.35), similarly to other results in the literature, but the differences were not significant. Aggressive behaviour was observed to be more frequent in the larger group sizes. At the age of 11 weeks the proportion of rabbits with ear lesions in the SC, LC, SP and LP groups were 0.0, 7.1, 8.7, and 17.4%, respectively, demonstrating that larger group size increases the risk of ear lesions. The effect of group size on the ratio of the fore part to the reference carcass (SC: 28.5, LC: 28.2, LP: 29.0%; P=0.02) and on the amount of perirenal fat (SC: 21.3, LC: 18.0, LP: 13.7 g; P<0.001) was significant. Meat quality traits (dry matter, protein, fat and ash content, drip loss, pH, L*, a*, b* values) were not affected by group size (cage vs. pen), but successful discriminations were performed using the NIRS method.
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