Special Issue "Advances in Rearing Strategies for Health and Welfare Improvement in Rabbit"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Nutrition".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Cesare Castellini
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy
Interests: rabbit; housing systems; behavior; meat quality; lipid metabolism; oxidative stress; health
Prof. Alessandro Dal Bosco
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy
Interests: rabbit; housing systems; behavior; meat quality; lipid metabolism; oxidative stress; health

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Currently, rabbit housing systems have to be consistent with animal welfare regulations and not only economically satisfactory for farmers. Such economic restraints imply that the productive unit must be organized in an efficient way. Most of the housing and management systems used in commercial rabbit farms are not ideal with respect to the ethological needs of animals and need to be reconsidered. Indeed, the single cage isolates rabbits and prevents them from physical and visual contact and social interaction, particularly in solid-walled cages. Furthermore, spatial restriction precludes the expression of some basic activities, which can lead to atypical behaviors, indicative of frustration, anxiety or boredom, and also to skeletal anomalies. For all these reasons, greater attention has to be focused on developing alternative housing systems. In this context, the promotion of appropriate, environmentally-friendly, and economically sustainable housing systems should be improved.

Innovative papers from different research areas, such as biotechnologies, behavior computer video analysis, animal science, and veterinary medicine, are invited to contribute to this Special Issue that aims to bring together the latest advances the management, health, and welfare of intensively farmed rabbits. Interdisciplinary studies will be taken into account, especially ones regarding (but not limited to):

(1) Rearing systems and management for fattening rabbits more respectful of welfare;

(2) Long- and short-term monitoring of animals involved in commercial breeding production;

(3) Innovative personalized systems for ethological monitoring;

(4) Rabbit welfare and health as an indicator of sustainable production;

(5) Relationship between rearing conditions, health status, and meat quality.

Prof. Cesare Castellini
Prof. Alessandro Dal Bosco
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Rabbit
  • Rearing strategies
  • Health
  • Welfare

Published Papers (16 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
The Effect of Substitution of Palm Fat with Linseed Oil on the Lipid Peroxidation, Antioxidative Capacity and Intestinal Morphology in Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Animals 2019, 9(10), 830; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100830 - 19 Oct 2019
Abstract
This experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of different dietary fatty acids (saturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids) supplementation on the oxidative status and intestinal morphology of adult rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Twenty-four “slovenska kunka” rabbits were randomly assigned to two different [...] Read more.
This experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of different dietary fatty acids (saturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids) supplementation on the oxidative status and intestinal morphology of adult rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Twenty-four “slovenska kunka” rabbits were randomly assigned to two different dietary treatments (12 rabbits per treatment) and fed the experimental diets between 80 and 102 days of age. The palm fat (PALM) diet with 6% palm fat and linseed (LINSEED) diets with 6% linseed oil were used. To evaluate the oxidative status of rabbits, the malondialdehyde concentration in urine and plasma and concentration of water and lipid soluble antioxidants in plasma were measured. The antioxidative capacity of the gastrointestinal tract was evaluated by measuring concentration of water and lipid soluble antioxidants in tissues and contents of the intestine. The histological structure of the small intestine and caecum was analyzed via histomorphometric analysis. No significant differences were found in either of those parameters. In summary, rabbits were exposed to high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids with a high predisposition to oxidation, but their health and welfare were not endangered. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Impacts of Enriching Growing Rabbit Diets with Chlorella vulgaris Microalgae on Growth, Blood Variables, Carcass Traits, Immunological and Antioxidant Indices
Animals 2019, 9(10), 788; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100788 - 11 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This work aimed to explore the effects of dietary supplementation of Chlorella vulgaris (CLV) on the growth performance, carcass traits, hematobiochemical variables, immunity responses, and the antioxidant status of growing rabbits. A total number of 100 rabbits were randomly distributed into four treatment [...] Read more.
This work aimed to explore the effects of dietary supplementation of Chlorella vulgaris (CLV) on the growth performance, carcass traits, hematobiochemical variables, immunity responses, and the antioxidant status of growing rabbits. A total number of 100 rabbits were randomly distributed into four treatment groups, each of five replicates (25 rabbits/group). The experimental groups were as follows; control: a basal diet without supplementation, CLV0.5: basal diet + 0.5 g chlorella powder/kg diet; CLV1.0: basal diet + 1.0 g chlorella powder/kg diet, CLV1.5: basal diet + 1.5 g chlorella powder/kg diet. Live body weight (LBW), cumulative body weight gain (CBWG), feed intake (FI), and feed conversion ratio (FCR) were not affected by dietary CLV supplementation. Platelet count (PLT), hematocrit (HCT), means corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) values were significantly increased in the CLV0.5 group compared with the other treatment groups. Dietary supplementation of CLV (1.5 g/kg diet) significantly reduced the alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activity. The concentrations of serum triglycerides and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) were lower (p < 0.05) in the CLV-treated groups than those of the control. Supplemental CLV at all experimental levels gave the best values of immunoglobulins (IgG and IgM) and glutathione activities. Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels were lower in the animals that received CLV in their diet than those of the control group. Dietary supplementation of 1.0 g CLV/kg had the potential to enhance immune responses and antioxidant status, as well as reduce blood lipid accumulation. Therefore, it could be concluded that CLV supplementation to growing rabbit diets can improve the health status. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Aggressiveness, Mating Behaviour and Lifespan of Group Housed Rabbit Does
Animals 2019, 9(10), 708; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100708 - 20 Sep 2019
Abstract
Aggressiveness is one of the main problems in group housing of rabbit does. The aim of the experiment was to investigate the frequency of aggressiveness and mating behaviour as well as the lifespan of does depending on group composition. The female and male [...] Read more.
Aggressiveness is one of the main problems in group housing of rabbit does. The aim of the experiment was to investigate the frequency of aggressiveness and mating behaviour as well as the lifespan of does depending on group composition. The female and male rabbits were housed in one of the 7.7 m2 pens (four females and one male per pen). Based on the ages of female rabbits two homogenous groups (HOM) were formed containing four 17-week-old females and two heterogeneous groups (HET) containing three 17-week-old and one 1-year-old female. Twenty-four-hour video recordings were taken during the first month after assembling the groups, and the aggressive actions (fights) and matings were counted. The lifespan was examined over a 200-day experimental period. On the day after assembling the groups the number of fights among does was high in HET group. The same aggressive behaviour only started a week later in HOM group, and some fights between females and the male were also observed. The daily peaks of aggressiveness were in the morning (after the light on) and in the evening (before and after the lights off). The primary position of females in the hierarchy was clear but sometimes no differences were detected among the subordinate females. The mortality of does was connected with their rank order. The number of matings was very high on the day of assembling the groups and a second small peak was observed at the end of the hypothetical pseudo-pregnancy. In addition to mating between male and females, female–female and female–male mounting was also observed. Despite of the small sample size it seems that aggressive behaviour is frequent in group housing systems, which is contrary to animal welfare. Natural mating is not effective in group-housing system. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Effect of A New Housing System on Skin Lesions, Performance and Soiling of Fattening Rabbits: A German Case Study
Animals 2019, 9(9), 650; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090650 - 04 Sep 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The aim of the present study was to develop and evaluate a new housing system for fattening rabbits. Data were collected on a farm with rabbits housed either under new conditions (NC) or established (conventional) conditions (CC). NC housing was characterized by large [...] Read more.
The aim of the present study was to develop and evaluate a new housing system for fattening rabbits. Data were collected on a farm with rabbits housed either under new conditions (NC) or established (conventional) conditions (CC). NC housing was characterized by large groups (Ø 58 rabbits, max. 12 rabbits/m2), slatted plastic floor (11 mm slats and 11 mm gaps), elevated platforms with partly solid floor, boxes and different enrichment materials. CC rabbits were kept in small groups (eight rabbits, 23 rabbits/m2) in cages with wire-mesh floor, an elevated platform, a box and one gnawing stick. Skin lesions and weight gain of 524 rabbits, cleanliness of their hind feet as well as their mortality and morbidity were investigated from weaning to slaughter in five batches. The evaluations showed higher daily weight gain (46.3 ± 6.0 g vs. 43.1 ± 5.5 g) and final weight (2878 ± 328 g vs. 2707 ± 299 g), as well as a lower cumulative lesion score at the middle of the fattening period in NC than in CC rabbits. Nevertheless, cleanliness of hind feet was assessed to be worse and mortality was higher in the NC housing. The NC system provided some benefits in terms of animal welfare compared to the conventional system, but hygienic challenges posed by this system make further adjustment necessary. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Mirrors Can Affect Growth Rate, Blood Profile, Carcass and Meat Traits and Caecal Microbial Activity of Rabbits Reared in a “Small Group” Free-Range System
Animals 2019, 9(9), 639; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090639 - 01 Sep 2019
Abstract
The aim of this work was to propose a model of free-range raising for rabbit able to maximize the animal welfare and at the same time the productive performances through the use of mirrors. A total of 81 rabbits were allocated into free-range [...] Read more.
The aim of this work was to propose a model of free-range raising for rabbit able to maximize the animal welfare and at the same time the productive performances through the use of mirrors. A total of 81 rabbits were allocated into free-range areas and divided into three groups (nine replicates per group): in the first group (face to face, F2F), the rabbits of each replicate could see each other. In the second group (blind) each replicate was isolated from the others; in the third group (mirrors), the replicates were divided as for the Blind group but two mirrors were placed in a corner of the perimeter. The blind group rabbits showed the lowest final weight (p < 0.05), while rabbits from the mirrors groups showed the best FCR and net dressing out values. The blind group showed the highest production of total short chain fatty acids, acetate (p < 0.05) and propionate (p < 0.01). The F2F rabbits showed higher levels of creatine phosphokinase and lactate dehydrogenase and lower values of blood glucose than those of the other groups, due to the higher locomotion activity. The use of mirrors can improve rabbit’s growth performance and carcass traits by lowering the rabbit’s locomotion activity in comparison to the other tested systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Litter Survival Differences between Divergently Selected Lines for Environmental Sensitivity in Rabbits
Animals 2019, 9(9), 603; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9090603 - 25 Aug 2019
Abstract
A divergent selection experiment on environmental sensitivity was performed in rabbits. The aim was to estimate the correlated response in kit weight and survival, litter weight, and weight distance from birth to weaning. The weight distance was calculated as the absolute value of [...] Read more.
A divergent selection experiment on environmental sensitivity was performed in rabbits. The aim was to estimate the correlated response in kit weight and survival, litter weight, and weight distance from birth to weaning. The weight distance was calculated as the absolute value of the differences between the individual value and the mean value of its litter. The relationship between the probability of survival at 4 d of age, and the weight at birth, was studied. Environmental sensitivity was measured as litter size variability. A total of 2484 kits from 127 does from the low line, and 1916 kits of 114 does from the high line of the 12th generation were weighed. Both of the lines showed similar individual and litter weights at birth and weaning, and a similar survival rate at birth, and at 4 d of age. The survival rate at weaning was higher in the low line (0.67 and 0.62; P = 0.93). The weight distance was higher at birth, but lower at weaning in the low line (47.8 g and 54.1 g; P = 0.98). When the weight at birth was high, the kits had a higher survival rate. In conclusion, selection for environmental sensitivity showed a correlated response in the kits’ survival, and in the homogeneity of litter weight at weaning. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Use of Environmental Enrichments Affects Performance and Behavior of Growing Rabbits Housed in Collective Pens
Animals 2019, 9(8), 537; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080537 - 07 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This study assessed the effects of an elevated plastic-slatted platform and/or a plastic hiding tube in collective pens with large group sizes (27 or 36 rabbits/pen; 16 rabbits/m2) on the performance and welfare of rabbits kept from weaning (at 33 days [...] Read more.
This study assessed the effects of an elevated plastic-slatted platform and/or a plastic hiding tube in collective pens with large group sizes (27 or 36 rabbits/pen; 16 rabbits/m2) on the performance and welfare of rabbits kept from weaning (at 33 days of age) to slaughter (at 68 or 75 days of age). Growth performance, injuries, and behavior (video recorded for 24 h) of rabbits (n = 504) were recorded. The platform allowed rabbits to adopt the rearing position more frequently (+0.14 events during 2 min every 30 min across 24 h) and to rest with stretched body for longer (+3.8% of observed time) (p ≤ 0.001). Production parameters and reactivity at the open field test were not modified, but the occurrence of injured rabbits at the trial end was higher in pens with platforms (+8.9%; p ≤ 0.01). This result was possibly related to the higher group size in pens with platforms (36 rabbits) compared to those without platforms (27 rabbits). The inclusion of the tube decreased growth (−2.2 g/d; p ≤ 0.05), whereas it was scarcely used by rabbits and it did not substantially change their behavior or the occurrence of injuries. In conclusion, under the experimental conditions of this study, elevated platforms worked as a useful structural enrichment in view of animal behavior but negatively impacted on the rate of injuries, whereas the usefulness of the tube was not confirmed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Mirrors Improve Rabbit Natural Behavior in a Free-Range Breeding System
Animals 2019, 9(8), 533; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080533 - 06 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The aim of this research was to evaluate the possible usefulness of mirrors in improving rabbit behavior in a free-range breeding system. Three groups (each consisting of nine replicates of three animals) were compared: isolated, isolated with mirrors and separated by a wire [...] Read more.
The aim of this research was to evaluate the possible usefulness of mirrors in improving rabbit behavior in a free-range breeding system. Three groups (each consisting of nine replicates of three animals) were compared: isolated, isolated with mirrors and separated by a wire mesh (possible visual and olfactory contacts). Rabbits allowed to have a visual and olfactory contact showed a significantly higher expression of important natural behaviors (olfactory investigation, gnawing, alertness, stretching, locomotion) compared to the isolated rabbits (with or without mirrors); while rabbits in the mirror group showed higher allo-grooming activity than those isolated and no different locomotion activity than those separated by wire mesh. Thus, mirrors seemed to be able to modify the behavioral repertoire of isolated rabbits by acting on social perception in rabbits reared in small groups in a free-range system. Nevertheless, despite it being advisable to use a combination of different indicators in order to assess the stress level of an animal, the accuracy of serum cortisol, as well as of some secondary stress markers assay, appeared to be limited in this type of breeding. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Housing Rabbit Does in a Combi System with Removable Walls: Effect on Behaviour and Reproductive Performance
Animals 2019, 9(8), 528; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080528 - 05 Aug 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
We evaluated the effects of two types of colony cages, in which rabbit does were always in a group (C1), and where they were in combi cages furnished with removable internal walls to allow both individual and grouphousing (C2), in addition to the [...] Read more.
We evaluated the effects of two types of colony cages, in which rabbit does were always in a group (C1), and where they were in combi cages furnished with removable internal walls to allow both individual and grouphousing (C2), in addition to the control group (C: conventional individual cage), on welfare, reproductive performance, and global efficiency. Forty-eight New Zealand White nulliparous rabbit does underwent artificially insemination (AI) and were divided into three groups, and reared in the different systems for about 1 year. The reproductive rhythm provides AIs at weaning (30d). In the C1 system, does were continuously grouped, while in C2, walls were inserted four days before kindling and removed 1week after it (60% of the timesheet in group). Reproductive traits and behaviour were evaluated during the entire year. The behavioural observations were performed around days 7, 36, and 44, corresponding to the inclusion of the does in the maternal cages, the insertion of walls four days before kindling, and the removal of the walls 1week after parturition in the C2 group, respectively. The percentages of does with severe skin injuries and the distribution of the injuries on different parts of body were also registered. Does reared in conventional cages showed the greatest presence of stereotype behaviours, while the C1 group showed the highest (p < 0.05) incidence of aggressiveness after regrouping (attack, dominance features, and lower allo-grooming) in comparison to the C2 group (17% and 22%, in C2 and C1 does, respectively).Individually caged does achieved the best productive performance (sexual receptivity, fertility, kindling rate, and number of kits born alive and at weaning). The C1 group showed the lowest performance (p < 0.05), whereas C2 showed an intermediate one. Does housed in the combi cage (C2) had higher (p < 0.05) receptivity and fertility rates and higher numbers of kits born alive and at weaning (79.2% and 76.2%; 7.95 and 7.20, respectively) than the C1 group, but lower values (p < 0.05) than does that were individually housed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Supplementation with Fish Oil Improves Meat Fatty Acid Profile although Impairs Growth Performance of Early Weaned Rabbits
Animals 2019, 9(7), 437; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9070437 - 11 Jul 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Our objective was to analyze the influence of replacing lard (control) with fish oil (FO) rich in long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet of rabbits weaned at 25 days of age on their growth performance, meat quality, cecal fermentation, and ileal [...] Read more.
Our objective was to analyze the influence of replacing lard (control) with fish oil (FO) rich in long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet of rabbits weaned at 25 days of age on their growth performance, meat quality, cecal fermentation, and ileal morphology. Twenty-four litters (12 control and 12 FO) of nine kits each were fed the experimental diets from weaning (25 days) until slaughter at 60 days of age. Half of the litters (six per diet) were used to monitor productive performance, carcass characteristics, and ileal morphology, and cecal fermentation was assessed in the rest of litters. Diet had no influence on feed intake, meat color, and pH or cecal fermentation, but FO-fed rabbits had lower (p ≤ 0.049) average daily gain, chilled carcass weight, and perirenal fat than control rabbits. Fish oil inclusion in the diet resulted in lower morbidity (5.56% vs. 20.4%; p = 0.019) and a healthier fatty acid profile with lower (p < 0.001) n-6/n-3 ratios in both muscle and perirenal fat. In summary, the inclusion of FO in the diet of early weaned rabbits improved the fatty acid profile of rabbit meat and fat and decreased the morbidity, but growth performance was slightly reduced. Full article
Open AccessArticle
The Potential Role of Citrus limon Powder as a Natural Feed Supplement to Boost the Productive Performance, Antioxidant Status, and Blood Biochemistry of Growing Rabbits
Animals 2019, 9(7), 426; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9070426 - 07 Jul 2019
Abstract
The current study examined the influence of Citrus limon (dry lemon) on the hemato-biochemical profiles, and antioxidant indices of growing rabbits. Forty-eight growing New Zealand White rabbits (age, eight weeks; weight, 1543.33 ± 25 g) were allocated into three groups (16 animals each), [...] Read more.
The current study examined the influence of Citrus limon (dry lemon) on the hemato-biochemical profiles, and antioxidant indices of growing rabbits. Forty-eight growing New Zealand White rabbits (age, eight weeks; weight, 1543.33 ± 25 g) were allocated into three groups (16 animals each), the first group was (control) fed a basal diet, whereas the second and third groups were supplemented with dried lemon, 1% or 2% DLP, respectively. A GC-MS analysis of more than 27 active constituents was performed. Feed conversion efficiency was (p < 0.05) better with diets containing 1% or 2% dry lemon, compared to the control group. Hematological indexes were increased significantly with the addition of DLP compared to those in the control group. Adding 1% or 2% dry lemon to rabbit diet increased (p < 0.05) enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidant activities (TAC, SOD, GSH, GST, and CAT) in serum and liver tissues. Taken together, these data reveal the advantages and antioxidant effects of dry lemon supplementation for growing rabbits once supplemented at a maximum of 2% in their daily diet. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Investigations on the Influence of Floor Design on Dirtiness and Foot Pad Lesions in Growing Rabbits
Animals 2019, 9(6), 354; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060354 - 14 Jun 2019
Cited by 5
Abstract
In Germany, an animal welfare ordinance for the housing of rabbits was issued which did not take into account the current investigations on floor design. The aim of the investigations was to study the effects of floor design on dirtiness and occurrence of [...] Read more.
In Germany, an animal welfare ordinance for the housing of rabbits was issued which did not take into account the current investigations on floor design. The aim of the investigations was to study the effects of floor design on dirtiness and occurrence of lesions on the legs of growing rabbits. A total of 1837 weaned rabbits, kept on four different floor designs, were examined for body lesions and the dirtiness of the soles of the feet at the end of the growing period. Two four-stage scoring systems (0–3) were used to record the dirtiness and the lesions on the feet. A floor according to the provisions of the German animal protection ordinance (10 mm slat width; 50% perforation on floor area; <15% perforation on the elevated platform) led to the most polluted and injured rabbits. The best cleanliness and the lowest injury rate of the growing rabbits was achieved on a plastic floor with 5 mm slat width and 13 mm slot width, both on the ground and elevated platform (75% perforation). The requirements of the German housing regulations on the floor for growing rabbits do not correspond to animal welfare. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Drinking Warm Water Improves Growth Performance and Optimizes the Gut Microbiota in Early Postweaning Rabbits during Winter
Animals 2019, 9(6), 346; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060346 - 12 Jun 2019
Abstract
Accumulating evidence indicates that cold exposure changes the composition of the gut microbiota and reduces intestinal immunity in early postweaning livestock. However, little is known about the effects of drinking warm water (WW) on gut microbiota during winter. In this study, we investigated [...] Read more.
Accumulating evidence indicates that cold exposure changes the composition of the gut microbiota and reduces intestinal immunity in early postweaning livestock. However, little is known about the effects of drinking warm water (WW) on gut microbiota during winter. In this study, we investigated the effects of drinking WW in winter on the growth performance and gut microbiota structure of rabbits raised in poorly insulated housing from the early postweaning period (day 46) to the subadult period (day 82). The average daily gain and feed conversion ratio in rabbits drinking WW were significantly improved compared to those of the rabbits drinking cold water (CW) during 47–58 days. In addition, rabbits drinking WW had a significantly decreased the risk of diarrhea during 71–82 days. 16S rRNA sequence analysis revealed that the alpha diversity of the cecal microbiota was not significantly different between the WW and CW groups, but significantly increased with age. The relative abundance of cecal microorganisms, such as Coprococcus spp. was considerably increased at day 70 in the group drinking WW. Correlation analysis indicated that Coprococcus spp. was negatively associated with pro-inflammatory factors. In conclusion, our results suggest that drinking WW has a positive effect on growth performance and gut microbiota in rabbits during the early postweaning stage in winter. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Dehydrated Alfalfa and Fresh Grass Supply in Young Rabbits: Effect on Performance and Caecal Microbiota Biodiversity
Animals 2019, 9(6), 341; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9060341 - 11 Jun 2019
Abstract
The improvement of rabbit gut microbiota by modifying nutritional components of the feed or favoring its early intake of feed has been previously investigated. The early administration of dehydrated alfalfa (A) or fresh grass (G) for rabbits, during the peri-weaning period (30 and [...] Read more.
The improvement of rabbit gut microbiota by modifying nutritional components of the feed or favoring its early intake of feed has been previously investigated. The early administration of dehydrated alfalfa (A) or fresh grass (G) for rabbits, during the peri-weaning period (30 and 45 days of age), and their effect on performance and caecal microbiota compared to a standard diet (C) were evaluated. Until 15 days of age, nine litters/group were housed in the maternal cage and milked once per day. From 15 to 30 days, the young rabbits could consume both milk and solid feed (pelleted for C or supplemental feed for A and G). At 30 days of age, the rabbits were weaned and, until 45 days, were kept in single cages following the same dietary protocol. No significant changes were found in the milk intake or the individual weight of young rabbits at 30 and 45 days. The caecal Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes (bacterial phyla ratio) increased with age (from 2.43 to 6.05 on average, at 30 and 45 days). The Ruminococcaceae/Lachinospiraceae (bacterial family ratio) was highest in the A group at both ages, followed by G then C. The early administration of dehydrated alfalfa is a promising solution to improve health status by favoring an appropriate digestive microbiota. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Paulownia Leaves as A New Feed Resource: Chemical Composition and Effects on Growth, Carcasses, Digestibility, Blood Biochemistry, and Intestinal Bacterial Populations of Growing Rabbits
Animals 2019, 9(3), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9030095 - 18 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This experiment was conducted to study the effects of paulownia leaf meal (PLM) as a nontraditional feed on the growth, carcasses, digestibility, blood chemistry, and intestinal microbiota of growing rabbits. Sixty rabbits (5-weeks old) were randomly allotted to three dietary treatments containing three [...] Read more.
This experiment was conducted to study the effects of paulownia leaf meal (PLM) as a nontraditional feed on the growth, carcasses, digestibility, blood chemistry, and intestinal microbiota of growing rabbits. Sixty rabbits (5-weeks old) were randomly allotted to three dietary treatments containing three amounts of PLM (0%, 15%, and 30%). The results showed that PLM has a higher content of ether extract, organic matter, methionine, tyrosine, histidine, manganese, and zinc than alfalfa hay. Body weight gain decreased when 30% PLM was provided. The best feed conversion ratio was recorded in the rabbits fed 15% PLM. A notable increase in high-density lipoprotein levels with a significant decrease in low-density lipoprotein was noted in the rabbits fed the PLM diets. Total fungi and Enterobacteriaceae and total bacterial count in the feed were significantly reduced because of PLM. In the cecum, coliforms, Enterobacteriaceae species, and total bacterial count declined in the rabbits fed the PLM diets. Conclusively, up to 15% PLM can be used in rabbit diets without any deleterious effects on the performance, nutrient digestibility, and blood constituents. In addition, dietary inclusion of PLM has the potential to reduce cecal pathogenic bacteria in rabbits. Full article

Review

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Open AccessReview
n-3 PUFA Sources (Precursor/Products): A Review of Current Knowledge on Rabbit
Animals 2019, 9(10), 806; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100806 - 15 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
This review compares the effects of different n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) sources on biological activity, physiological/reproductive endpoints, and health implications with a special emphasis on a rabbit case study. Linoleic acid (LA) and α-linolenic acid (ALA) are members of two classes of [...] Read more.
This review compares the effects of different n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) sources on biological activity, physiological/reproductive endpoints, and health implications with a special emphasis on a rabbit case study. Linoleic acid (LA) and α-linolenic acid (ALA) are members of two classes of PUFAs, namely the n-6 and n-3 series, which are required for normal human health. Both are considered precursors of a cascade of molecules (eicosanoids), which take part in many biological processes (inflammation, vasoconstriction/vasodilation, thromboregulation, etc.). However, their biological functions are opposite and are mainly related to the form (precursor or long-chain products) in which they were administered and to the enzyme–substrate preference. ALA is widely present in common vegetable oils and foods, marine algae, and natural herbs, whereas its long-chain PUFA derivatives are available mainly in fish and animal product origins. Recent studies have shown that the accumulation of n-3 PUFAs seems mostly to be tissue-dependent and acts in a tissue-selective manner. Furthermore, dietary n-3 PUFAs widely affect the lipid oxidation susceptibility of all tissues. In conclusion, sustainable sources of n-3 PUFAs are limited and exert a different effect about (1) the form in which they are administered, precursor or derivatives; (2) their antioxidant protections; and (3) the purpose to be achieved (health improvement, physiological and reproductive traits, metabolic pathways, etc.). Full article
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