Influence of feeding intensity on the growth, body composition and sexual maturity of male New Zealand White rabbits

Kinga Fodor, L. Zöldág, S. Gy Fekete, A. Bersényi, A. Gáspárdy, Emese Andrásofszky, Margit Kulcsár, F. Eszes, M. Shani

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An experiment was carried out with young male New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits to establish live body weight changes, body measurements, body composition and sexual maturity as a function of feeding intensity. Animals in Group 1 ('AL', n = 10) were fed ad libitum, while those in Group 2 ('RS', n = 10) received restricted feeding corresponding to 70% of the ad libitum level. The starting liveweights were practically the same (0.907 ± 0.146 and 0.911 ± 0.147 kg in Group AL and Group RS, respectively). The feeding trial lasted from 6 to 22 weeks of age. The average body weight was significantly higher in Group AL from 7 to 22 weeks of age. At 22 weeks of age the body weight of RS rabbits was 85.64% of the weight of AL animals (3.22 ± 0.52 kg and 3.76 ± 0.33 kg, respectively). Average body weights of RS males at 8, 9, 11, 19 and 21 weeks of age were similar to those of ad libitum fed (AL) animals at 7, 8, 10, 15 and 16 weeks of age, respectively. The growth of bucks fed restricted tended to be allometric. The most significant difference was found at 16 and 18 weeks of age, while the lowest difference occurred at 6, 12, 15 and 19 weeks of age. It can be stated that low-intensity feeding up to slaughtering weight causes backwardness in rear cannon length and this backwardness remains also after the 15th week, which is well over the optimal slaughtering age. Based on the present data, the 70% restricted feeding cannot be recommended either for the future breeding bucks or for broiler males reared for slaughter. To determine the major chemical components of the body, rabbits were euthanised. Original dry matter and crude fat content of the body significantly (P < 0.05) decreased under restricted feeding (41.42%; 32.48% and 16.73%; 7.35%) while the percentage of protein within the dry matter increased (49.6%; 65.0%) and fat decreased (40.17%; 22.1%) significantly. Libido unambiguously decreases as a consequence of feed deprivation. The most conspicuous difference was found in the level of blood testosterone. Although a few RS bucks produced semen but only much later than the rabbits fed ad libitum. On the other hand, there was no difference in the motility of spermatozoa and ejaculate volume in comparison with AL animals. There was no relationship between the body fat content and the reproductive status of bucks in the present trial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-319
Number of pages15
JournalActa veterinaria Hungarica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2003


  • Body measures
  • Chemical composition
  • Growing rabbit
  • Male
  • New Zealand White
  • Restricted feeding
  • Sexual maturity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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