Evaluation of mulberry (Morus alba) leaves as a concentrate substitute in rabbit diet: effect on growth performance and meat quality


Abstract: Mulberry (Morus alba) leaves contain a high amount of digestible carbohydrates, protein and minerals, making it an attractive, natural, low-cost feed ingredient in rabbit rations. The present study evaluated the effect of stepwise replacement of a concentrate diet with wilted M. alba leaves on growth performance and meat quality of rabbits. Sixty indigenous rabbits (age, 36 ± 2 days) were assigned to 5 diets (12 rabbits per diet). The 5 diets consisted of a commercial concentrate diet (control; WML0), and stepwise replacement of the concentrate with 25% (WML25), 50% (WML50), 75% (WML75), and 100% (WML100) wilted M. alba leaves. Final body weight (1238 g/rabbit), and total (904.1 g/rabbit) and daily (18.8 g/day/rabbit) weight gains were higher (P < 0.05) in rabbits fed with WML50. The WML50 also supported the best (P < 0.05) feed to gain ratio (4.50). Moreover, higher (P < 0.05) reference carcass weight (571.7 g) and a higher dressing percentage (55.8%) were recorded for WML50. Composition of the diets did not alter (P > 0.05) meat pH, water release and cooking loss. In conclusion, M. alba successfully replaced 50% of concentrate in rabbit diet and supported a higher growth performance and carcass yield without negative effects on meat quality.

Keywords: Mulberry leaves, rabbit, growth performance, meat quality

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