Effect of alternative rearing methods on the behaviour and on the growth and slaughter traits of growing rabbits
Abstract. The aim of this study was to compare the behaviour and the production and slaughter traits of growing rabbits reared in different alternative rearing systems and in conventional fattening cages. The experiment was carried out with 312 Pannon White growing rabbits between 5 and 11 weeks of age. According to the pen size, floor type and stocking density 8 experimental groups were created. For analyzing the different behavioural patterns 24 h video recordings were performed weekly by using infrared cameras. The body weight and the feed consumption of the rabbits were also measured weekly. At 11 weeks of age all of the animals were slaughtered and dissected. For the comparison of the behaviour and production of the experimental and control animals the Dunnett-test was used. It was established that the different alternative rearing methods have a significant effect only on the social and stereotype behaviour of the rabbits. The daily weight gain was highest in the control animals, while lowest in the rabbits reared on deep litter. The feed consumption, the feed conversion ratio and the slaughter characteristics were not affected by the rearing method. It was concluded that from the ethological point of view housing rabbits in pens – particularly on deep litter – has a favourable effect on both of the social and stereotype behaviours’ frequency. However, when rabbits are reared on deep litter, some consumption of the litter material should be calculated, but it does not decrease the pellet consumption and the final liveweight of the animals significantly.