Restriction of rabbit feeding

Nutrition is a very important influence on performance and subsequent meat quality. In terms of rabbit nutrition, feed restriction is a frequently used manipulation. By restriction we mean a feeding technique in which the feed ration is restricted in some way. A distinction is made between qualitative and quantitative restriction.

In qualitative restriction, a nutrient in the ration is reduced or omitted altogether. Quantitative restriction, where the amount of feed is reduced, is more common. A special type of quantitative restriction is time restriction, where the time for which animals are allowed access to feed is limited. Restriction can be applied in many ways, such as immediately after weaning and then throughout the fattening period, or with a subsequent ad libitum (unlimited) feeding period.

Quantitative feed restriction leads to slower growth but improves feed conversion (feed consumption per unit gain). However, once rabbits are fed ad libitum again, growth compensation (more intensive growth in the period following the restricted growth) occurs. The effect of short-term but intensive feed restriction can increase feed digestibility in the small and large intestine. Feed restriction during gestation has also been investigated in rabbits, but in these experiments lower birth weights were observed compared to rabbits fed ad libitum. Another proven advantage of restriction is the reduced incidence of digestive problems in rabbits after weaning.

The term indirect restriction may also be used. We consider indirect restriction to be water restriction, which reduces feed intake and slaughter weight, but has been shown to prevent some health problems.

RabbitIn rabbit breeding, restriction can be encountered in many different forms. Moderate restriction can also reduce intramuscular fat and reduce water loss from meat during cooking. We can say with certainty that this method of feeding reduces mortality and morbidity in most cases and improves feed conversion, but there are still many experiments where this theory is disproved. Therefore, it is important to evaluate to what extent and for how long the restriction should be applied.

Regarding rabbit welfare during quantity restriction, the consequences are still debatable as feed restriction is likely to lead to starvation. However, rabbits can adapt to any form of feeding technique and adapt very well without any signs of aggressive behaviour.