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PROJECT TOPIC: NUTRIENT INTAKE, DIGESTION AND UTILIZATION BY RABBITS FED COWPEA HULL AND SOYBEAN HULL BASED DIETS

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CHAPTER ONE 1.1 INTRODUCTION Although Nigeria is the most populous black nation in the world with great potentials and brilliant experts in different fields of endeavour, her inability to break away from the class of the world’s poorest nation and from the shackles of poverty despite her rich natural and human endowment is a thing of pain (Olatunbosun, 2001). According to Nigerianet (2003), Nigeria is the largest geographical unit in Africa with a land area of 923,768 square kilometer. Central Bank of Nigeria (2002) reported Nigeria’s population to be 129.9 million in 2004 based on the projected annual growth rate of 2.8% of the revised 1991 census. At this given growth rate, the estimated population of Nigeria would be 141.1 million in 2007. In spite of Nigeria’s numerous natural resources which are sufficient to make her self-reliant in animal protein production and even become main exporter of all kinds of food items, there is an acute shortage of animal protein in Nigeria. The demand for animal protein is far higher than the supply. The high cost of animal protein has put it out of the reach of the average Nigerian (Ani and Adiegwu, 2005; Ugwuene 2003). Mbanasor (2000) estimated Nigeria’s livestock resource to consist of about 14 million cattle, 34 million goat, 22 million sheep, 100 million poultry and 1 million horses. In a similar report, Abubakar et al. (2003) estimated the livestock population of Nigeria to be about 14 million cattle, 22.1 million sheep, and 345 million goats. In spite of Nigeria’s high population of domestic animals, animal protein supply is still far below the minimum level of 35g per day as recommended by FAO (1997). The fact that some developed countries with lesser natural resources can boast of self sufficiency and their ability to export animal protein calls for sober reflection among Nigerians. On this note, for quick increased supply of animal protein and products to be met, it is necessary that animals with short generation intervals be reared. One of the domestic animals with short generation interval to be considered in this study is the domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The domestic rabbit has the potential to become one of the world’s most important livestock specie (Daily Times, 1981). In terms of commercial production, the rabbit excels other livestock; cattle, sheep and goat and ranks close to broiler chicken in terms of growth rate, feed conversion efficiency and meat quantity, (Adegbola et al., 1986). Lebas and Metheron (1982) found that the production of 1 kg of rabbit meat requires only a quarter of the feed energy needed to produce the same amount of Pork. El Amin (1978) reported that it was theoretically possible to obtain 206kg of meat in a year from a doe (assuming 15kits per litter, 10 litters in a year at market weight of 2.5kg and 55% carcass yield on slaughter).



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