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Effect of dietary mannan-oligosaccharides on in vivo performance, nutrient digestibility and caecal content characteristics of growing rabbits


F. Bovera, Department of Animal Science and Food Control, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Napoli Federico II, via F. Delpino 1, 80137 Napoli, Italy. Tel: +39 081 2536061; Fax: +39 081 292981; E-mail:


To evaluate the effect of mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) on in vivo performance, nutrient digestibility, fermentation characteristics and caecal microbial populations of rabbits, 144 thirty-five days old hybrid Hyla were equally divided into three groups, one of which was fed the same diet without additives (control group), one with antibiotics (colistin sulphate, 144 mg/kg; tylosin, 100 mg/kg; oxytetracyclin, 1000 mg/kg) and one with MOS (1 g/kg of diet). Mortality rate, live weight, feed intake and feed conversion ratio were recorded up to 62 days of age. At 60 days nutrient digestibility was measured by acid insoluble ash method. The caecal content of 10 rabbits per group was collected at 62 days and analysed for volatile fatty acids production, ammonia content and microbial count. Rabbits from the control group had a significantly (p < 0.01) lower body weight at 62 days (1638.9 g vs. 1779.4 g and 1862.5 g, respectively for the control, MOS and antibiotic groups) while the antibiotic group showed a higher (p < 0.05) feed intake than the control group (127.9 g/day vs. 109.3 g/day). Rabbits from the MOS group had a higher apparent digestibility of cellulose (34.27% vs. 29.61% and 27.49%, respectively for the MOS, control and antibiotic groups) and, as a consequence a higher level of acetate in the caecal content (39.93 mmol/l vs. 34.21 mmol/l and 23.09 mmol/l, respectively for the MOS, control and antibiotic groups). Caecal microflora of the MOS group rabbits also had a higher fermentative activity in respect of protein source, as demonstrated by the higher productions of branched chain fatty acids. MOS and antibiotics significantly reduced the colonies of Coliformis (2.32 vs. 3.20 vs. 2.40 logCFU/g, respectively for the MOS, control and antibiotic groups, p < 0.01). Mannan-oligosaccharides at 1 g/kg of diet can be used as an alternative to antibiotics during the rabbit’s growth period.