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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