Response of Growth Performance, Cecal Fermentation Traits and In vitro Gas Production to Substitution of Soyhulls for Lignified Fiber in Rabbit Diets

  • Chang, Ying ;
  • Qin, Yinghe ;
  • Xiong, Yiqiang ;
  • Du, Yuchuan ;
  • Meng, Qingxiang
  • Received : 2005.08.12
  • Accepted : 2006.02.06
  • Published : 2007.01.01


A growth trial (Expt. 1) and an in vitro fermentation experiment (Expt. 2) were conducted to determine the response of growth performance, cecal fermentation characteristics and in vitro gas production to incremental levels of substitution of digestible fiber for lignified fiber in the diet of weaned rabbits. Three diets, formulated by substituting soyhulls (SH; used as digestible fiber source) for soybean straw (used as lignified fiber source) at substitution levels of 0, 25 and 50%, were used in a factorial design. In the growth trial (Expt. 1), increasing levels of SH substitution resulted in a quadratic increase in daily body weight gain rate (p<0.04) and feed conversion efficiency (p<0.02), but in a numerical decrease in dietary DM intake (p=0.15). When SH were included in the diet at 25% substitution level, rabbits had the highest rate of liveweight gain and feed conversion efficiency. As SH substitution level increased, pH values and ammonia-N of cecal contents linearly (p<0.001) decreased, but total VFA concentration linearly (p<0.03) increased. With incremental levels of SH substitution, the percentage of acetate and butyrate linearly (p<0.05) reduced, but the percentage of propionate and minor acids linearly (p<0.03) increased. Increasing the SH substitution levels tended to increase incidence of diarrhea. In the in vitro fermentation experiment (Expt. 2), regardless of origin of substrates fermented, increasing SH substitution level resulted in increased maximal gas production (p<0.001) and shortened gas production lag time, but had no effect on gas production rate (p>0.2). These observations suggest that incrementally feeding SH to rabbits could stimulate their cecal microbial activity, allowing cecal fermentation to shift towards favoring fiber digestion. In conclusion, digestible fiber from soyhulls may partially substitute for more lignified fiber, soybean straw, without having an adverse effect on cecal fermentative and microbial activity and growth performance. For growing rabbits, about 73% of total dietary NDF should be supplied by effective NDF, the remainder could come from digestible NDF, such as soyhulls.


Soyhulls;Weaned Rabbits;Growth Performance;Gas Production;Effective Fiber


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