The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of dietary supplementation with spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) or/and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) on total tract apparent digestibility of nutrients and the performance of growing rabbits. At weaning (5 wk of age) the rabbits were randomly allotted to 7 groups (42 rabbits/group, 3 rabbits/cage). Rabbits in the control group (C-C) received a control pelleted feed throughout the experiment (5-11 wk of age) without any supplementation (crude protein: 176 g CP/kg, neutral detergent fibre: 325 g NDF/kg). In the other groups, the control diet was supplemented with 5% spirulina (S, mainly in substitution of soybean meal), or 3% thyme (T, mainly in substitution of alfalfa meal) or by both 5% S and 3% T (ST) for the whole (5-11 wk of age; groups: S-S, T-T, ST-ST) or part of the growing period (8-11 wk of age; groups: C-S, C-T, C-ST). Supplementations had no effect on apparent digestibility of dry matter, organic matter, acid detergent fibre, gross energy and digestible energy. The CP TTAD was lowest in rabbits fed the S diet, whereas it was highest in C fed rabbits, the other 2 treatments being intermediate (P<0.001). The starch TTAD was lowest for S fed rabbits (98.3%) and highest for ST fed rabbits (99.4%), the other 2 dietary groups being intermediate (P<0.001). In contrast, the ether extract TTAD was higher in T than ST and C dietary groups (on av. 70.4 vs. 67.7% respectively; P<0.001), with S fed rabbits showing an intermediate value (69.1%). The NDF TTAD of the ST diet was lower than that of the other 3 groups (16.4 vs. 21.0% respectively; P<0.001). The TTAD of Ca reached the lowest value for the S diet (53.5%) compared with the other 3 diets (on av. 59.1%; P<0.001). The S diet also had the lowest digestibility (P<0.001) for K and P, but in this case the C group always showed the highest values (P<0.001), with T and ST rabbits exhibiting intermediate results. Spirulina and/or thyme dietary supplementation had no effect on feed intake (133 g/d), daily weight gain (38.3 g/d), morbidity (9.9 %) or mortality (1.8 %). Significant differences were only found for feed conversion ratio, which was lower for the C-T group (3.39) than for the C-C group (3.54; P<0.05). Based on these results, spirulina and thyme included separately or combined in growing rabbit diets did not exhibit substantial effects on growth performance or health status.
- Growth performance
- Total tract apparent digestibility
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology