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Housing of growing rabbits in individual, bicellular and collective cages: growth performance, carcass traits and meat quality

  • G. Xiccato (a1), A. Trocino (a2), D. Majolini (a1), M. Tazzoli (a1) and A. Zuffellato (a3)...

Abstract

During growth (from 27 to 75 days of age), 384 rabbits were kept in different types of wire-net cages: 72 individual cages (72 rabbits; 10 animals/m2), 48 bicellular cages (96 rabbits; 2 rabbits/cage; 18 animals/m2) and 24 collective cages (216 rabbits; 9 rabbits/cage; 18 animals/m2). The rabbits housed in individual cages showed higher daily weight gain both during the fattening period (from 52 to 75 days of age) and during the whole period of growth (43.0 v. 41.8 and 41.5 g/day; P < 0.05), and they had a higher final live weight at 75 days of age (2678 v. 2619 and 2602 g; P < 0.05) compared with the rabbits in the bicellular and collective cages, respectively. Rabbits in individual cages ingested more feed (133 v. 127 and 126 g/day; P < 0.01), but the feed conversion did not differ significantly among rabbits housed in the three types of cages. At slaughter, the carcass traits and meat quality were weakly affected by the housing system. The transport losses were higher in rabbits kept in individual and bicellular cages compared with those reared in collective cages (3.1% and 2.9% v. 2.2%; P < 0.01). In rabbits kept in individual cages, the hind leg muscle to bone ratio was higher (6.35 v. 6.19 and 5.91; P < 0.05) compared with the bicellular and collective cages, respectively. The pH and colour of the longissimus lumborum did not change with the housing system, while the b* index of the biceps femoris was lower (3.04 and 3.32 v. 4.26; P < 0.001) in the rabbits kept in individual and bicellular cages, respectively, than in those kept in collective cages. In conclusion, the rabbits housed in individual cages showed higher daily growth than rabbits kept in bicellular or collective cages, but they had a similar feed conversion and carcass quality. Differently, neither in vivo performance nor slaughter results differed among the rabbits kept in bicellular cages or in collective cages. The meat colour may be affected by the housing system, but to an extent that is hardly perceivable by the final consumer.

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