Growth performance and carcass characteristics of weaned rabbits fed varying levels of unfermented and lye digested\fermented cocoa pod husk meal (CPHM)
The study evaluated the growth performance and carcass characteristics of weaned rabbits fed varying levels of undigested/unfermented and lye digested/fermented cocoa pod husk meal in different diets as a source of fibre. A Completely Randomised Design (CRD) was used which comprised of forty unsexed weaned New Zealand and Chinchilla cross rabbits which were randomly allotted into five treatments A, B, C, D and E. Each treatment consisted of eight replicates. Treatment A served as the control diet (without CPHM), B and C had 30% and 40% unfermented CPHM while D and E contained 30% and 40% lye digested\fermented CPHM respectively. Freshly broken cocoa pod husk were collected from a fermentary unit of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) and processed. A known quantity was sundried into a constant weight before milling while the other part was soaked in lye water for one hundred and twenty hours (digested/fermented) i.e five days before being sun dried into a constant weight and milled. The milled unfermented and digested/fermented CPHM were incorporated into the experimental diets at 30% and 40% inclusion levels. The study showed that rabbits fed Diets D and E had significantly (p<0.05) higher body weight gain, feed intake, water consumption and Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) than those fed diets B,C and A. Rabbits in A (the Control) scored lowest in all the parameters. The carcass analysis also showed that the eviscerated weight, hind limbs, fore-limbs, back and tail weight of rabbits on diets D and E were significantly higher in weight (p<0.05) than those on diets A, B and C. There was no death attributable to CPHM in the diet, therefore, fermented CPHM is recommended as fibre inclusion in rabbit diet in the tropics.
Key words: Rabbits, Cocoa Pod Husk Meal, Lye, growth performance, carcass characteristics