The need to improve rabbit production in Nigeria for increased supply of animal protein is no longer in doubt due to the high cost of Chicken, Pork and beef. Bamgbose, et al (2004) also supports the necessity of exploring other less common but potential sources of animal protein such as rabbits. Recently, there has been increased awareness in rabbit production. The advantages projected include the high reproductive rate, rapid maturity, high genetic potential, efficient feed utilization, limited competition with humans for food and high quality nutritious meat (Cheeke, et al, 1986). Also rabbits have been introduced into West Africa as farm animals of economic value, low in fat, succulent, nicely flavoured and providing a palatable change for chicken and other meats, (Owen, 1976; Aduku and Olukosi, 1990). It has also been reported by Aduku and Olukosi (1990) that rabbit meat plays an important role in the prevention of vascular disease due to its extremely low cholesterol and sodium levels. This makes rabbit meat a good source of animal protein for coronary heart patients and people on low sodium diet. Rabbit meat also has no religions taboos regulating its consumption.
Rabbits are able to thrive on non-conventional feed stuffs (Omole, 1982) and forages (Aduku and Olukosi 1990). Rabbits are being maintained solely on all forage diets with encouraging weight gains (Selepov, 1964; Perez and San Sebastrain, 1970). However, these investigators used temperate forages, which are known to have on the average higher crude protein and lower fibre contents, (Oyenuga 1968, Miltroy, 1972) and have higher nutritive value than tropical forages. Their utilization of large forage diet had been shown to be limited since fibre digestion is post-gastric in the caecum (Davidson and Spreadury, 1975). Although the rabbit requirement for crude fibre is very high-about 14-25% (Adegbola et al; 1985) when compared with other monogastiric animals, it has been reported that the feeding of concentrate increases feed consumption and crude fibre digestion (Butcher, et al; 1981).
Feed accounts for the dominant input in animal production ranging from 60-70% of the total cost of production (Nworgu, et al., 1999). Similarly, feed ingredient account for over 90% of compound feed industry. Therefore, the relationship between feed ingredient and animal product output is both direct and obvious. It has been observed that conventional feedstuffs are very expensive and scarce, the high cost and scarcity derived from crippling realities that are characteristics of the economics of developing countries. (Esonu et al, 2001; 2002; 2004). Conventional ingredients are expensive since they suffer from stiff competition with channels in the food chain which command higher priority and can pay higher prices than the compound feed industry.
Nigerian’s are amongst the lowest consumers of animal protein in Africa (Egbunike, 1999) in spite of her numerous natural and human resources. The average per capita protein daily intake is below the minimum stipulated by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) (1988) and World Health Organization (WHO) (2005). The estimated protein intake in North America, Western and Eastern Europe has been put at 66g, 39g and 35g per head per day respectively, while in Africa and indeed Nigeria the figure stands at 11g per head per day (Lamorde, 1991). Regrettably, animal products contribute 15 to 20% of total protein intake of Nigerians (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1997). Animal protein contains the essential amino acids which are more balanced and readily available to meet human nutritional needs than plant protein (Oyenuga, 1971). There is therefore an urgent need for alternative locally available and cheap sources of feed ingredients particularly those that do not attract competition in consumption between humans and livestock or have no direct relevance in human food channel. One possible source of cheap material is sun dried bovine rumen content (SBRC). Sun dried bovine rumen content (SBRC) is an animal by- product which is found mostly in abattoirs when the rumen of the animal is cut open after slaughter.
This particular research work is aimed at exploring the potentials of sun dried bovine rumen content (SBRC) in the diets and performance of growing rabbits. It is expected that from this research, useful suggestions would be made that could be favourable to both small and large scale farmers.