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Haematological and biochemical responses of weaner rabbits fed diets containing graded levels of poultry litter.


The need to source for alternative livestock feed ingredient has become very paramount as a pre-requisite to lowering animal feed cost and hence making meat and meat products available to the populace at affordable prices. The mixture of manure, feed, feathers and bedding materials from poultry houses is commonly referred to as "poultry litter". Poultry litter has been found to contain protein, which can replace soya bean meal in the rabbits diet [1].

It is a by-product of poultry production, which is not consumed by man, and it is readily available. In spite of its ready availability, its public acceptability as raw material for feed is in doubt because of the aesthetic and health concern.

Clinical evaluation of blood parameters is very important to monitor and evaluate disease prognosis [2,3]. [4] concluded in his study that it is often very difficult to assess the current health status of the animal without detailed examination of the blood. However, studies on the blood profile of rabbits fed poultry litter are limited. This study was therefore carried out to determine the haematological and biochemical status of rabbits fed varying levels of poultry litter.

Materials and Methods

The experiment was carried out in the rabbit unit of the Teaching and Research Farm of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt. The poultry litter was collected from the layers pen; stock pilled and covered with thick black cellophane under a shade for 21 days.

A total of twenty-four (2-3 months old) Chinchilla rabbits of mixed sexes weighing 0.67 - 0.79kg initial weights were used. They were randomly assigned into four groups ([T.sub.1], [T.sub.2], [T.sub.3] [T.sub.4]) of approximately equal mean weights in a Completely Randomized Block Design (CRBD).

The rabbit were divided into four groups with three replicates, each of the replicate having two rabbits. They were all subjected to standard husbandry routine throughout the study that lasted 12 weeks.

The experimental diet consisted of 0%, 5%, 10% and 15% poultry litter replacement of soya bean for treatments [T.sub.1], [T.sub.2], [T.sub.3] [T.sub.4] respectively.

At the end of the feeding trial blood samples were collected from three rabbits from each treatment group. Blood samples were collected into well-labeled tubes containing ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid (EDTA) for determination of haematological indices and a second set of tubes without anticoagulant for serum separation. The samples were taken to University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital for analysis.

The PCV was determined using the wintrobe haematocrit method described by [5]. WBC and RBC were determined using haemocytometer after appropriate dilution. Total protein was determined using the method as described by [6]. Serum enzymes (SGOT, SGPT, ALP) were determined using spectrophotometric method as described [7]. Cholesterol was measured according to [8]. Data obtained were subjected to analysis of variance [9] and treatment means were compared using Duncan's Multiple Range Test (DMRT) as modified by [10].

Results and Discussion

The effect of dietary treatment on the haematological changes is presented in Table 1. The results revealed that there was no significant difference (P>0.05) in Hb, WBC, RBC and PCV in all the treatments. They all fell within the normal range of haematological values for New Zealand white rabbits in temperate region as established by [11]. They gave the value ranges of 4.00 - 7.94l, 5.00 - 7.5l, 33.00 - 50.00% and 10.00 - 17.40g/l respective for RBC, WBC, PCV and Hb. This implies that any of the test diets could be selected as far as haematology is concerned. The findings revealed that the dietary treatments did not significantly alter the synthesis (erythrogenesis) and concentration of RBC of the experimental animals, since the animals were not anaemic throughout the trial period. This finding is in an agreement with [12] who fed diets containing micro doses of fumonisin to adult rabbits and reported non significant value in RBC.

Results on WBC revealed that the dietary treatments had no significant effect on them. The mean values (6.60 - 6.73l) of all the WBC investigated were within the normal physiological range for rabbits as reported by [11]. They reported a WBC range of 5.00 - 7.5l for rabbits. The values of Hb and PCV reported (11.68 - 12.00g/l and 34.00 - 34.67%) in this study were within (10 - 17.4g/l and 33.00 - 50.00%) as reported by [11]. The PCV values indicates if the rabbits is anaemic or dehydrated. The rabbits in the course of the experiment had a good health status. This supports the finding of [13] who reported that low PCV value indicates anaemia while high PCV values suggest dehydration.

The result obtained for all the serum enzymes (Table 2) showed no significant differences (P>0.05) between treatments. However, the values obtained for SGOT and ALP did not show any specific pattern for all the treatments.

Triglycerol and cholesterol measurements at haematological levels are useful indicators for the diagnosis of hyperlipoproteinaemia, liver and biliary function and help to follow the course of diabetes mellitus, arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease and certain metabolic disorders arising from endocrine disorders [14,15,16]. The values obtained for cholesterol is this study showed a specific pattern for the test rabbits.

The cholesterol values of rabbits fed diets containing poultry litter were slightly lower than the control although there was no significant difference. This could be as a result of the fibre in the supplemented diets [1], which had binding effect on the bile acids excreting such and thus resulting in lowering of serum cholesterol. This is in agreement with the findings of [17]. However, the lower value of cholesterol in poultry litter supplemented diet agrees with the findings of18 who reported consistent reduction in cholesterol of chicks fed un-supplemented high fibre diet as compared to those fed high fibre diets supplemented with fungal enzymes. He adduced that the low cholesterol could be as a result of slight reduction in lipogenesis brought about by a concomitant reduction in regulatory activities of acetyl-CoA carboxylase, an enzyme which mediates in the rate-limiting step of carboxylation of acetyle CoA to malonyl CoA in fatty acids synthesis.

According to [19], factors affecting serum cholesterol level includes dietary fat, age, sex, heredity and disease condition. [20] equally stated that when the protein intake level increases, the chicken has tendency for build up of cholesterol. The results obtained from this study conform to this statement.


There were no marked variation in all haematological and biochemical values during the study period as all the values obtained fall within the normal range for rabbits. This indicates that poultry litter can successfully replace soya bean in growing rabbits diet without altering their haematological and biochemical values.


The authors are grateful to staff of the Chemical Pathology Department, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH).


[1] Onimisi P.A and J.J Omage (2006). Liv. Res. for Rur. Dev. 18 (11): 5-10.

[2] Igene, F.U and A Arijeniwa (2004). Proc. 29th Ann. Conf.., Nig. Soc for Ani. Prod. (NSAP), 29: 235-237.

[3] Eniolorunda, O.O; H.A. Awojobi and S.A. Adeyemi (2005). Trop. J. Ani. Sci 8 (11): 49-53.

[4] Kaneko, J.J (1989). Clinical Biochemistry of Domestic Animals. 4th ed. Academic Press Inc. Saw Santiago. p. 60.

[5] Wintrobe, M.M (1933). Ame J. Med. Sci. 185: 58-59.

[6] Peters, T.; G.T. Biamonte and B.T. Doumas (1982). Protein (total protein) in serum urine and cerebrospinal fluid; albumin in chemistry. Vol. 9 (W.R. Paulkner and D. Meites, Eds) American Assoication for clinical chemistry, Washinton D.C

[7] Rej, R and Hoder, M. (1983). Aspartate Transminase. In: Methods of Enzymatic Analysis 3rd ed. (H.U Bergmeryer, J. Bergmeyer and M. Grassl, Eds) weinheim, Verlagchemie, 3: 416.

[8] Roshlan, P., Bernet E and Guber, W (1974). J. Clin Biochem 12: 403-407.

[9] Steel R.G.D. and Torrie J.H. (1980). Principles and Procedures of Statistics. 2nd Ed. MacGraw-Hill. New York.

[10] Gomez, K.A. and Gomez, A.A (1984). Statistical Procedure for Agricultural Research 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons Inc.

[11] Mitruka, B.M and Rawnsley, H.M (1977). Clinical Biochemical and Haematological reference values in normal experimental animals. Manson Pub. U.S.A Inc, NY. p 21.

[12] Ogunlade, J.T.; Gbore, F.A.; Ewuola, E.O.; Idahor, K.O.; Salako, A.O and Egbunike, G.N. (2004). Trop. J. Ani. Sci. 7 (1): 169-176.

[13] Ologhobo, A.D.; Tewe, O.O and Adejumo, D.O. (1986). Proc. 11th Ann. Conf. Nig. Soc for Ani. Prod. ABU, Zaria, March 23rd-27th, 1986.

[14] Searcy, R.L. (1969). Diagnostic Biochemistry, McGraw-Hill, New York. [15] Tiefz, N.W. (1970). Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry, Saunders, Philadelphia. p 329.

[16] Ellefson, R.D and Caraway, W.T. (1976). Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry. Ed. Tietz N.W. p. 506.

[17] Ezeagu, I.E.; Petzke, K.J.; Ologhobo, A.D.; Metges, C.C. and Akinsoyinu, A.O. (2000). J. Food Sci. and Tech. 37: 191-195.

[18] Onilude, A.A. (1999). Fermented poultry litter and fungal enzyme supplemented with high fibre broiler diets: growth responses, carcass characteristics and blood lipids of fed chicks Nahrung 43. Nr 1: 54-60.

[19] Yeh, S.J.C and Leville, G.A. (1972). J. Ani. Sci 69: 201-202.

[20] Maxwell, M.H.; Robertsom, G.W.; Spence, S. and McCorquodule, C.C. (1990). Brit. Poul. Sci. 31: 407-413.

O.J. Owen (1), J.P. Alawa (1), S.N. Wekhe (1), A.O. Aniebo (1), E.M. Ngodigha (2) and A.O. Amakiri (1)

(1) Department of Animal Science, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, Nigeria E-mail :

(2) Department of Fisheries/Livestock Production Technology, Niger Delta University Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State
Table 1 : Effect of treatment on haematological parameters
of rabbits fed varying levels of supplemented poultry litter

Treatment   Haemoglobin           Red Blood
            (g/l)                 Cell
            Mean [+ or -] SEM     (x[10.sup.12]/l)
                                  Mean [+ or -]
A           12.00 [+ or -] 1.04   4.57 [+ or -] 0.21
B           11.80 [+ or -] 0.33   4.50 [+ or -] 0.33
C           11.70 [+ or -] 0.83   4.48 [+ or -] 0.60
D           11.68 [+ or -] 0.73   4.33 [+ or -] 0.40

Treatment   White Blood          Packed Cell
            Cell                 Volume (%)
            (x 109/l)            Mean [+ or -] SEM
            Mean [+ or -] SEM

A           6.50 [+ or -] 0.56   34.67 [+ or -] 2.36
B           6.70 [+ or -] 0.46   34.60 [+ or -] 1.90
C           6.60 [+ or -] 0.30   34.33 [+ or -] 2.36
D           6.73 [+ or -] 0.41   34.00 [+ or -] 2.16

Table 2 : Effect of treatment on enzyme responses of rabbits
fed varying levels of supplemented poultry litter

Treatment   Serum                 Serum
            glutamic              Glutamic
            oxaloacetic           Pyruvic
            transaminase          transaminase
            SGOT (Iu/l)           SGPT (Iu/l)
            Mean [+ or -]         Mean [+ or -]
            SEM                   SEM

A           16.73 [+ or -] 0.06   32.33 [+ or -] 1.70
B           16.60 [+ or -] 1.20   32.67 [+ or -] 0.47
C           16.83 [+ or -] 0.30   32.33 [+ or -] 1.25
D           16.67 [+ or -] 0.24   32.00 [+ or -] 2.16

Treatment   Alkaline              Total
            phosphate             protein
            ALP (Iu/l)            (g/l)
                                  Mean [+ or -]

A           17.00 [+ or -] 0.82   64.00 [+ or -] 2.16
B           17.33 [+ or -] 0.47   63.80 [+ or -] 1.20
C           17.67 [+ or -] 1.25   64.33 [+ or -] 2.50
D           17.50 [+ or -] 0.82   63.67 [+ or -] 2.87

Treatment   Cholesterol
            Mean [+ or -]

A           2.60 [+ or -] 0.30
B           2.58 [+ or -] 0.17
C           2.56 [+ or -] 0.21
D           2.55 [+ or -] 0.45
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Author:Owen, O.J.; Alawa, J.P.; Wekhe, S.N.; Aniebo, A.O.; Ngodigha, E.M.; Amakiri, A.O.
Publication:International Journal of Biotechnology & Biochemistry
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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