GROWTH AND CARCASS CHARACTERISTICS OF WEANER RABBITS FED MORINGA (MORINGA OLEIFERA) LEAF MEAL
Twenty four (24) cross bred rabbits of both sexes, made up of twelve (12) males and twelve (12) females were used for the experiment to investigate, the growth and carcass characteristics of weaner rabbits fed four(4) dietary levels of Moringa oleifera leaf, meal (MOLM). Treatments 1, 2, 3, and 4 received 0, 10, 20, and 30% MOLM, respectively. Results obtained showed that rabbits on T3 diet achieved the highest weight gain (1600.00 ±56.27g) while T2, T4 and T1 recorded weight gains of (1583.33 ± 0.14g, 1441.67 ± 47.29g and 1366.67 ± 77.10g), respectively. Rabbits on T3 diets also recorded a higher daily weight gain (9.54 ± 0.70g) than those on T2, T4 and T1 (9.03 ± 0.39g, 7.54 ± 0.89g and 6.65 ± 0.85g), respectively. There was also significant difference (P< 0.05) on the feed cost per kg gain (N) as Treatment 3 feeds was cheaper (N77.08), than T4, T2 and T1 whose feed costs were N85.57, N85.66 and N132.85, respectively. Feed intake, feed conversion ratio, and feed cost per kg feed (N) had no significant difference (P > 0.05) across the treatments. Results of carcass evaluation showed a significant difference (P < 0.05) on the; thoraxic width, lion weight, liver weight, lungs weight and spleen weight. However, there was no significant difference (P > 0.05) on the other parameters such as, liver weight, dressed weight, carcass length, head weight, fore limb weight, hind limb weight, heart weight and kidney weight, as was observed from the study. Evaluation of hematological characteristics of rabbits fed MOLM showed no significant difference (P>0.05) in packed cell volume (PCV) haemoglobin (HB g/d), red blood cell count (RBC) and white blood cell count (WBC). This investigation therefore suggests that, rabbits tolerate Moringa oliefera leaf meal (MOLM) up to 20% level, for optimal performance. Higher levels of incorporation resulted in decreased performance and should be discouraged.