Growth and Reproductive Performance of Rabbits Fed Mistletoe Leaves (Phragmanthera nigritana)
Ten (10) rabbit does of mixed breeds aged between 5 – 6 months were used to study the effect of feeding mistletoe on feed intake, body weight and reproductive performance of rabbits. Following a pre - treatment period of two weeks during which the does were allowed to acclimatize to the environment, they were randomly assigned into two groups of five does each and designated T1 and T2.Does in T1 which served as the control group had access to tridax (Tridax procumbens), while does in T2 had mistletoe (Phragmanthera nigritana) which is a semi parasitic plant widely available in Minna. The host plant of the mistletoe used in this study is the African locust bean tree (Parkia biglobosa). Both groups were fed common concentrate diets formulated to contain 18 % CP. Water was supplied adlibitum during the entire period of the study that lasted for 20 weeks. A buck was introduced to each group for mating. Date mated was noted with a view to keep track of the gestation period of the does. Other parameters studied were litter size at birth, 3,5 and 8 weeks, litter body weight was studied at birth, 3,5 and 8 weeks, mortality and coefficient of milking were also investigated. The feed intake and body weight changes of does (pre- partum) were also studied. The result revealed better performance in the control group for feed intake, body weight gain, feed conversion ratio, and gestation length of dam. This trend was also repeated in the kittens for litter size. However, better survival rate and coefficient of milking were observed in the does that had mistletoe. Body weight gain did not differ significantly (P > 0.05) among the kittens obtained in both groups. It is concluded that mistletoe can be used to feed rabbit does without any deleterious effect on the performance of their rabbits.
Key words: Reproductive performance, feed intake, body weight, tridax. Mistletoe, rabbits.