The aim of this study is to know the effect of different solid feed and milk intake during suckling on performance around weaning and on caecal content characteristics at weaning. In order to obtain different intakes of milk and solid feed, 13 litters of pregnant females (PF) inseminated the day after delivery and 14 litters of non-pregnant females (NPF) were compared. At birth the litters were equalized at eight pups and during lactation dead pups were replaced by pups of the same age from nursing does. Compared to the PF group, rabbits in the NPF group had a higher milk intake (26.0 versus 21.4 g/day; P < 0.01) and lower solid feed intake (9.1 versus 11.5 g/day; P < 0.01) between 20 and 28 days of age. No significant difference was observed between the two groups in weight gain before and post-weaning (28-49 days). At weaning, the rabbits in group PF showed higher values in caecal content (g 26.3 versus 22.6; P < 0.05) and volatile fatty acids (mmol/l 52.2 versus 43.6; P < 0.01) and lower values in empty caecal weight (g 7.18 versus 7.78; P < 0.05), C3 (6.4 versus 9.3%; P < 0.01) and C3/C4 ratio (0.39 versus 0.63; P < 0.01) than the group NPF. On the basis of the above results, it may be concluded that the quantity of solid feed and milk intake before weaning influenced the charac- teristics of the caecal content, but not the performance of rabbits around weaning.
Rabbits; Weaning; Feed intake; Performance; Caecal fermentation;