Rabbits have a unique immune system that requires a high fibre and low protein dietary plan. The basic nutrients necessary for rabbit growth, development and health maintenance include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water. Rabbit pellets are highly concentrated in these nutrients and so help to ensure proper development for younger rabbits. For this reason, they are generally considered is the base of a rabbit’s diet. Younger rabbits can feed on unlimited pellets as their bones and muscles need plenty of protein and calcium for proper growth. Good quality rabbit pellet ingredients should have at least 22% crude fibre, no more than approximately 14% protein, about 1% fat and calcium. Farmers should make sure that utilised rabbit pellet ingredients contain adequate levels on nutrients versus maturity and variety of animals.
Table of Contents
Soybean meal is high in protein and energy and is one of the most commonly used protein supplements in the word. The proteins found in soybean meal is of excellent nutritional value and well balanced in essential amino acids which makes it an essential rabbit feed ingredient. Most commercially produced pellets contain approximately 17.5% soybean, depending on the maturity of rabbits. This is because protein nutritional requirements of rabbits vary with developmental and physiological stages and level of production. Pregnant does are given pellets containing 4% soybean meal and 12% for lactating does. According to various agricultural research, rabbits the maintenance ration should be 12 to 15% protein, increasing to 16 to 20% for pregnant, lactating, and especially growing rabbits. This information should determine the quantity of soybean meal used in formulating rabbit feed.
A variety of cereal grains are widely used as rabbit pellet ingredients. Cereal grains are easily digestible and are a rich source of nutrients including protein, carbohydrate as well as fat. The common types of grains comprise corn, barley, sorghum, rice, rye and oats. By-product feeds include soy hulls, distiller’s grains, corn gluten as well as wheat middling. Commercially produced rabbit pellets consist mostly of ingredients from plants, primarily alfalfa meal and wheat middlings. The protein in wheat middlings is however very poor, particularly in amino acids. As such, it is advisable to opt for richer grains or provide a protein rich supplementary feed. Note that as previously mentioned, the amount of grains provided vary according to maturity and production stage. For example, grain based pellets can be formulated with extra vitamins and minerals and fortified with the proper amounts of protein for lactating rabbits. When formulating rabbit pellets, farmers should make sure that selected grains contain adequate nutrients. In addition, ensure that grains are not provided in excess as they can be detrimental to animal health.
Feed additives are generally provided to supplement nutrients. Some are given to facilitate development and maintain animal health. Commercially produced rabbit pellets contain additives in the form of nutrients which include limestone, salt, choline chlorine, lysine, methionine, riverina vitamin and mineral premix. Others contain antibiotics for therapeutic purposes and as growth promoting agents. Therapeutic usage of antibiotics is typically a high dose-short term one, the substance is administered via feed or water. Antibiotics used for growth enhancement constitute low doses over a prolonged period usually added in feed. Some farmers opt for natural feed additives instead of antibiotics. In fact, the current trend is using herbal extract to achieve similar results. The herbal extract, tannin and prebiotica, inulin have been proven useful as natural additives in antibiotic-free rabbit diets.
Rabbits have digestive tracts that are specially adapted to break down fibrous vegetation. Hay provides the fibre necessary to keep their digestive systems healthy and motile. In addition, hay plays a major role in wearing down teeth which continuously grow. Frequent consumption of hay controls the development on sharp hooks on rabbit teeth. When left unmaintained, these can be very painful resulting in loss of appetite. Homemade feeds are produced with the use of a small pellet mill to produce a variety of hay rabbit pellets. Hay used to produce rabbit pellets are often rich in protein, carbohydrates as well as minerals, particularly calcium, phosphorus and magnesium among other nutrients. Note that hay is often combined with other rabbit pellet ingredients in order to reach sufficient nutritional value. The most recommended rabbit pellet ingredients include alfalfa, timothy and orchard grass. Alfalfa hay is often provided to young rabbits due to its high caloric content necessary for development. Once reaching the age of 7 months, rabbits are gradually introduced to timothy, grass orchard or oat types of pellets. These rabbit pellet ingredients generally have high digestibility energy and contains about 18% protein necessary for growth, health maintenance, lactation and reproduction.
Rabbits in the wild all over the world successfully consume a wide variety of plant material. Various types of grasses and leafy plants comprise the largest portion of the wild rabbit diet. As such, it is necessary for rabbit pellets to contain green feed. As a matter of fact, it has been proven that green feeds are the next essential aspect in rabbit dietary plans hence the superior performance of rabbits fed greens. Vegetables therefore are some of the necessary rabbit pellet ingredients. Greens that can be used when formulating rabbit pellets include romaine lettuce, mustard greens, carrot tops, cilantro, watercress, basil, kohlrabi, beet greens, broccoli greens and cilantro. These are a rich source of vitamins thus play an important role in strengthening the immune system. Keep in mind that some vegetables have high nutrient values which can be detrimental to animal health. Leafy greens such parsley and escarole have high amounts of calcium hence may contribute to the development of calcium-based bladder stones if fed in excess. It is therefore recommended to make use of such rabbit pellet ingredients in limited quantities.
Rabbit pellet ingredients should not comprise dried fruit, seed, nuts and coloured crunchy things. While these are attractive to the eye and can readily be consumed by rabbits, they provide little or no nutritional benefits to animal health. Rabbis are strict herbivores and in nature rarely consume such feed. Rabbit pellets ingredients should ideally be closer if not similar to their natural feed. Note that rabbit pellet should not be provided in excess as they do not only promote obesity, but discourage the rabbit from consuming enough hay to ensure good intestinal health. The result is a health condition known as cecal dysbiosis, which can foment much more serious health problems.