Growth, carcass and meat quality traits of two South African meat rabbit breeds
ract Rabbits could contribute to meat production in South Africa. However, little research has been done on rabbit farming in the country, including on the performance of locally available meat breeds. This study examined the meat production of the New Zealand White (NZW) and Phendula rabbit breeds. The live weights (LW) and average daily gains (ADG) of 80 (44 male, 36 female) NZW and 40 (22 male, 18 female) Phendula rabbits, housed in single-sex groups of three, were recorded from weaning (5 weeks) until slaughter (11 weeks). The slaughter weight, and carcass, organ, and carcass portion weights were recorded for 10 male rabbits and 10 females of each breed, and the physical and proximate chemical quality of the loin meat was determined. The breeds differed for the reference carcass (RC) yield (NZW: 85.3 ± 0.14%; Phendula: 84.9 ± 0.24%) and the proportions of the low-value fore (NZW: 38.6 ± 0.26%; Phendula: 37.6 ± 0.28%) and high-value intermediate (NZW: 19.6 ± 0.16%; Phendula: 20.4 ± 0.28%) parts. Females had greater LW and ADG at 11 weeks old, and reduced dressing percentages, but greater RC yields owing to lighter heads and red offal. Females also had smaller proportions of the fore part. Meat quality did not differ between the breeds or sexes. Overall, both breeds compared well to previous reports. However, they appeared to mature relatively early, as indicated by the significant sex differences, and the high carcass and meat fat content.
Keywords: carcass portions, meat yield, New Zealand White, Phendula