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The Importance of Fibres to Manage fattening rabbits' Digestive Issues Logo Feedia

About half of the sanitary issues encountered on rabbit farms are related to digestion. With this in mind, farmers should be able to access and use all the existing technical tools and data available to maintain or even improve the overall sanitary condition of their rabbit farm. Nutrition is of the utmost importance in this regard, especially the fibre content of the feed. How does fibre help to reduce digestive problems in rabbits?

Fibre, a major constituent of feed

On average, fibres account for over 35% of a fattening rabbit’s diet. They include lignin, crude fibre, hemicellulose and pectin. Their presence in plant cell walls varies depending on the raw materials used, as well as their nutritional characteristics for rabbits, particularly in terms of digestibility.

Benefits of fibres on the young rabbit

There are two main categories of fibre, both of which have benefits for the health and performance of rabbits:

  • indigestible fibres (which include crude fibre and lignin);
  • digestible fibres (which include hemicellulose and pectin).

Indigestible fibres (cellulose and lignin) are poorly digested by rabbits. By reducing the residence time of food in the digestive tract, their presence will influence transit time, particularly in the cecum. This improvement in intestinal motility prevents the proliferation of potentially pathogenic bacteria and the accumulation of fermentation products and gases. This leads to an improvement in health status (mortality and morbidity), particularly diarrhoeal symptoms.

Graphique fibre lapin

Digestible fibres (hemicellulose and pectin) are well digested by rabbits. As a substrate for microbial flora, they lead to the production of volatile fatty acids (VFA). The greater the volume of digestible fibre ingested, the greater the concentration of VFAs in the cecum, leading to a drop in pH. In addition, VFAs represent a reassuring source of energy for rabbits, helping to reduce mortality due to paresis (reduced or even halted intestinal transit).

Graphique fibre lapin

Striking a balance between digestible fibres and indigestible fibres

Provided in the right quantities, fibre is beneficial to the health status of fattening rabbits. However, it is important to provide an optimum balance of digestible and indigestible fibre in the feed, as demonstrated by a meta-analysis presented by Techna at the Journées de la Recherche Cunicole in 2019.

What's more, rabbits appreciate a diversified fibre intake: our studies have shown that, for an equivalent amount of fibre in the feed, adding different fibre raw materials to the feed is better than using a single source of fibre to significantly reduce mortality.

Graphique fibre lapin

Nutritional requirements that come up against plant infrastructure limitations

Rabbits' fibre requirements call for the use of very specific raw materials: grape pulp, grape seed cake, beet pulp, alfalfa, etc. This means that feed manufacturing plants have to mobilise storage cells for raw materials that are not always of interest to other species, especially those rich in indigestible fibre.

Feed for fattening rabbits may therefore contain inadequate levels of fibre, and/or a lack of diversity in fibre sources, which means that the feed cannot be technically advanced. However, solutions such as blends of fibrous raw materials can be envisaged to meet both the needs of rabbits and the industrial optimisation of factories.

Performance, safety, quality and technicality are the major production parameters of rabbit feed manufacturing. The Techna Group provides feed millers with support and customised products to help them to produce feeds that combine strong animal performance and sanitary security. For more information, please contact our experts!

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