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This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of dietary supplementation of Vitamin E and Selenium on the reproductive performance of rabbit Does and Kits. Four groups of mixed breeds of rabbits (Newzealand white, Dutch black, and Chinchilla) 8-9 months old with an average body weight of 1.98±0.6kg were considered in the experiment. Each group was made up of 3does and a buck to serve them. All the bucks were fed the basal diet during the study alongside group 1 Does which served as the control. Does in groups 2, 3 and 4 Does were fed the basal diet supplemented with 40mg vitamin E (VE); 0.3mg Selenium (Se); and 40mg Vitamin E plus 0.3 Selenium (VE + Se) for 4 weeks respectively. From the study, there were no significant (P>0.05) differences in the reproductive performances of Does except for body weight of litter at birth which was significantly (P>0.05) increased by Se and significantly decreased by VE + Se supplementation; and weight at weaning which was increased in the Se group. Blood Haemoglobin, PCV, RBC, and LH did not differ (P>0.05) from the control. Se and VE groups increased blood Neutrophils. In the VE+ Se group, Eosinophil and FSH were significantly (P>0.05) increased, while lymphocyte was significantly (P>0.05) reduced. However, Eosinophil and Lymphocyte were significantly (P>0.05) decreased in the VE group. For the oxidative enzymes, the Se, SOD, and Glutathione peroxidase were not influenced by the treatments (P>0.05). The Se group had a significantly (P>0.05) increased MDA and Reduced glutathione values. Glutathione level was significantly lowered in the VE and Se group. For the VE + Se group, MDA was significantly increased while Catalase was significantly (P>0.05) reduced. Other oxidative enzymes were not however influenced (P>0.05) by the treatments. In conclusion, in addition to improvement in the FSH and oxidative enzymes status of Does, there was also better reproductive performance when Se is supplemented at 0.3mg/kg diet.
1.1 Background Information
The shortage of animal protein in the developing countries in the tropics has been long recognized and has remained one of the major limiting factors to the attainment of food security in Nigeria. The minimum protein requirement is estimated at about 75g/person/day out of which 40grams should come from animal protein (Akinwumi, 2011). Presently, animal protein consumption has been given as 7g/person/day by FAO (2014), which suggests a less than 16% contribution of the animal products to protein consumption. The situation is degenerating with time as the population growth is not equated with the corresponding increase in animal per capital production (Akunwumi, 2011). The demand and supply of meat have not been able to agree. The problem lingers due to the fact that 85% of the country’s meat supply comes from the cattle whose nomadic system of production does not encourage rapid production (Dung, 1992).
The federal government through its Agricultural Transformation agenda of 2011 has devised means of increasing domestic production of livestock, utilizing improved technologies and management practices towards this end but the impact of these projects are yet to be seen. The utilization of the advantages of short gestation period, high reproductive potential, rapid growth rate and ability to utilize forage which rabbit (Mailafia et al., 2010) and other micro-livestock animals have over cattle to bridge gap between meat demand and supply still leaves the country with a short fall in supply due to myriad of problems facing it (Nworgu, 2007). To maximize food production and bridge this meat demand supply gap in Nigeria, it is pertinent to assess and weigh viable options (Owen et al. 2008) which involves using fast growing livestock species like rabbits which posses advantageous features in the small holder subsistence type integrated farming in developing countries (Mailafia et al., 2010). The set-backs in animal meat production in Nigeria have been attributed partly to diseases, availability of affordable feeds and also the competition between these food animals and humans for available grains. Therefore need to increase the awareness of the high potentials of the rabbit meat production and advocating its use in the developing countries as a veritable means of alleviating animal food shortage (Ajala and Balogun, 2014) both in Nigeria and other tropical African countries.
The rabbit is a pseudo-ruminant that has a fast growing and breeding rate (Hassan et al, 2012, Mailafia et al, 2010). A buck and two does if well fed and cared for will yield more than fifty (50) weaned rabbits a year, which is an average of one rabbit a week (http://www.fao.org/docrep/to690eo/to690eoa.htm).
The meat from rabbit meat surpasses meat from other farm animals in protein content (Aduku and Olukori, 1990). It also contains low cholesterol, fewer calories and a lower percentage of fat (Mailafia et al, 2010) compared to beef, pork, chicken or lamb (Aduku and Olukosi, 1990; Lane 1999). The rabbit meat is in the categories of white meat and its prescribed safe for consumption and for people by patients with different diseases conditions and for people on strict diet who wish to cut down fat in their diet (Ahsan, 2014). The fat-less and cholesterol free properties of rabbit meat have made it a high recommendation for cardiac patients and people with cholesterol problems. It has been labeled safe for patients with blood pressure due to sodium intolerance to consume due to its comparatively lower content of sodium, used for the treatment of atherosclerosis and normalizing metabolism in cancer patients undergoing radio-therapy (Ahsan, 2014). The rabbit has been observed to excel other livestock cattle, sheep and goats, because its meat quality is higher of all the livestock species. Rabbit is the most efficient converter of feed to flesh (Agunbiade, 2001). One kilogram of rabbit meat only requires a quarter of the feed energy required to produce an equivalent quantity of lamb or beef and only 70 percent of the feed to produce same amount of pork (Lebas and Matheron, 1982).The rabbit therefore has a potential solution to the problem of meat supply in many developing countries.
The optimum exploration of rabbits’ proficiency and performance can be achieved through proper feeding (Iheukwumere, 2005). The reproductive performance of rabbits have been said to be affected by biological, nutritional and physical environmental factor (Robinson, 1996). It is well established that malnutrition retards growth, delay puberty, lower conception rate, reduce ovarian follicular growth and hamper both nutritional and fetal growth through fatal / maternal competition for growth (Mello Curry, 1989; Armstrong et al 2001) and this suggests that increased feed and nutrient level be given to pregnant rabbit to enhance productivity (Leban, 1983, Efiong and Weger, 2007).
Reactive Oxygen species (ROS) are chemical reactive molecules containing Oxygen formed as a natural by-product of the normal cellular oxygen metabolism which plays major roles in cell signaling and homeostatic (Devasagayam et al, 2004). At times of environment stress, the levels of ROS generated in the body increases tremendously (Rada and lets, 2008) leading to damage of cell structures (oxidative stress). The cells of the animal body have devised a range of mechanisms to nullify and repair the harmful effects of these ROS including inactivating them (anti-oxidation) (Pierce et al, 2009; Argawal and Allamaneni, 2004). The oxidant status of the animal body can influence embryo development (Dennery, 2004) and oxidative stress causes decreased fertility in animals (De Bruin et al, 2002).
Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin processing antioxidant properties and also there are varieties of antioxidant enzymes synthesized from metallic co-factors like selenium (Se) in vivo the animal body (Surai, 2003). It has been established that vitamins and minerals play an important role in the growth of the animals reproductive performance (De Bruin et al, 2002).and helps to mitigate the role of oxidative stress in the initiation and progression phases of various diseases since it’s a major contributor of degenerative pathologies (Surai, 2003). Vitamins and minerals are used as feed supplements to augment their levels in animal feeds. Because of the uses of the vitamins and minerals in animal production, it is pertinent to establish the level which these supplements can be effectively and economically used to improve reproduction in micro-livestock.
1.2 Objectives of the Study
In response to the need for appropriate nutrition of rabbit, the study is designed to evaluate the use of Selenium and vitamin E as potential to enhance the performance of the does and kits.
The specific objectives of the study are:
(1) To determine the effect of dietary selenium and vitamin E supplementation on reproductive performance of doe
(2) To determine the effect of dietary supplementation of selenium and vitamin E on the on the post-partum growth of rabbit kits.
(3) To determine the effect of dietary selenium and vitamin E supplementation on the oxidative and gonadotropins status of rabbit does.
1.3 Justification of Study
Efficient reproduction is one of the main factors that assure high productivity in rabbit farm to achieve this, farmers need to take into consideration, management practices that will promote the physiology, behaviour and the general well-being of the animal.
Vitamins and minerals play important roles in the growth of the animal and their reproductive performance. It is very important that these roles be pointed out and thereafter prescription made with regards to the nutritional and therapeutic requirement of these substances in animal production especially in reproduction and development of kits and these forms the basis of this experimental study.
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