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Evaluation of the use of carob pods (Ceratonia silliqua) in rabbit nutrition; effect on growth performances and health status after weaning

M Guenaoui, D J Guemour and S Meliani

University of Ibn Khaldoune, Faculty of natural sciences and life, Laboratory for the reproduction of farm animals, Tiaret, (Algeria)


The aim of this work was to study the utilization of carob pods by rabbits and its effect on growth performance, health status and economic efficiency in fattening period. In total 51 rabbits (local population - Algeria) weighing 481 ± 23.0 g weaned at 30 d of age were divided into three groups of 17 rabbits housed individually in flat-deck cages to record growth performances and health status. The first group “CM” received a commercial pelted food of fattening rabbits; the second group “CR” received only carob pods cracked while the third group “CRM” received both of commercial food and carob pods but each one in its own feeder. No antibiotic or medicines were used. Growth performances (feed intake, weight gain and feed conversion) are recorded at 30, 40 and 72 days of age while morbidity, mortality and health status are controlled usually.

The results show that carob alone doesn’t improve growth rate in rabbits because of a little consumption in comparison with the groups CM and CRM respectively (47.4 g/j, 99.6 g/j, 110 g/j. P=0.001) but improve feed intake when it is added to a commercial diet for the group CRM. However the daily weight gain hadn’t been affected by the addition of carob to the diet between the groups CM and CRM between 40 and 72 d of age (P= 0.46) but it was different in the whole period (P= 0.036) . In other hand when carob is distributed with commercial feeds to rabbits there are no digestive problems as diarrhea in comparison with commercial feed or carob alone (P= 0.012) without any difference in mortality rates between groups (P= 0.25). As conclusion the addition of carob pods in rabbit’s nutrition may improve growth performances by increasing the palatability of animals to feed and may avoid digestive problems specially diarrhea consequently decrease mortality but it must be incorporated to rabbits feed directly to justify its effect.

Key words: Algeria, daily gain, diarrhea, diets, feed intake, mortality


In rabbit production, the period around weaning (28-35 d of age) is very critical. It is associated with a higher risk of digestive disorders (Lebas et al 1998; Gidenne and Garcia 2006).The most common disorder in rabbit production is the Epizootic Rabbit Enteropathy (ERE) which is the first cause of mortality in the European rabbit industry (Dewree et al 2003). This problem is accompanied by diarrheas which caused to high mortality rates (30 to 80%) (Licois et al 1998; Marlier and Vindevogel 1998). The frequency of this problem is high during this period and the use of antibiotics is usual as standard treatment in many commercial farms. However, the wide use of antibiotics has led to the occurrence of antibiotic resistant bacteria (Falcao-Cunha et al 2007).Therefore the research of alternative solutions is indispensible. However, the rabbit is characterized by its ability to enhance the value of its food, it converts vegetable proteins into animal proteins (20%) and transforms the materials that are difficult to consume by humans into food that the latter readily accepts (Lebas 1975).Carob maybe one of this materials in Algeria. The carob pod is the fruit of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) it is more used in the industry for the production of carob gum and locust bean gum, which are polysaccharides in the seed (Battle et al 1997). On the other hand, carob is considered as a high-energetic feed for animals because of its high level of sugars (48% - 56%) (Petit and Pinilla 1995). In addition to its high carbohydrate content, carob is more palatable where it is shown that the inclusion of carob increases the palatability of animal diets (Cheeke 1987) and reduces the cost of feed for fattening lambs (Guessous et al 1989, Lanza et al 2001, Obeidat et al 2011). However carob is largely utilized in animal feed against diarrhea for its high level in tannins (Würsch 1987) and also utilized to treat diarrhea in babies (Loeb et al 1989). It is in this perspective that our work is aimed at: the evaluation of growth performances (Ingested and weight gain) allowed by the carob; and the acceptability of carob by rabbits and its effect on health status.

Material and methods


The experiment was carried out in the experimental farm of the University of IBN KHALDOUN –Tiaret from 30 December to 10 February, 2019.The farm is situated in the oust of the state characterized by a cold weather in winter and very hot in summer.


Carob pods were obtained from the province of MEDEA in the west of Algeria. The carob was collected during the month of April 2018. After cleaning and treating the carob pods, they are cracked completely including seeds to be given to rabbits.

A commercial diet was obtained from the animal feed production unit of FAB GRAIN in TIARET. The ingredients and the chemical composition of both of carob pods and commercial diet are showed in table 1 and 2.

Table 1. Ingredient composition (%) of commercial diet







Soymeal 44


Wheat bran


Wheat straw




Soybean oil


Calcium carbonate


Dicalcium phosphate










Corrector 1


1 Provided by Group Bouhzila IMPEX (Setif, Algeria), (mg/kg): Mn: 4100; Zn: 11740; Cu: 2000; I: 250; CO: 99; Fe: 16000; Niacin: 4000; Betaine: 10830; Choline: 27500; Vitamin K: 200; Vitamin B1: 200; Vitamin B2: 400; Vitamin B6: 200; Vitamin A: 1700000 UI/Kg; Vitamin D3: 150000UI/Kg; Vitamin E(α-tocopherol acetate): 3800 UI/kg. 200 ppm de Clinacox 0.5% (Diclazuril)

Table 2. Chemical composition (% DM) of the experimental diets


Carob pods

Dry matter






Crude protein



Ether extract















Gross energy, Kcal /kg




Before starting the experiment all the material and equipments were washed and disinfected with TH5 and dried on sun. Rabbits used in the experiment were from local population mixed-sex. During the whole experimental period, both feed and water were administered adlibitum and animals were kept in controlled environmental conditions as follows: temperature maintained at 25 ± 2ºC through heating and static ventilation system and a cycle of 12 h light:  dark was established.

Growth performances and health status

Fifty one rabbits at 30 d-old with a body weight of 481 ± 23 g were blocked by litter and randomly assigned to the 3 experimental diets (17 rabbits per diet) and housed individually in flat-deck cages of 600 × 250 × 330 mm. The first group received the commercial diet “CM”, the second group received the carob pods cracked “CR” while the third one received both of the commercial diet and the carob pods “CRM” but each one in its own feeder to record feed intake of each one of these later. Individual live weight and feed intake were recorded at 30, 40 and 72 d of age to evaluate growth performances between 30 to 40 d, 40 to 72 d and 30 to 72 d. The health status of rabbits (mortality and morbidity) was monitored daily from 30 to 72 d of age to evaluate the health risk. For diarrheas we control animals every day in the morning and the evening (taking into account the appearance of the faeces, fluidity and color according to a scale from 0 “normal feaces” until 5 “liquid”. The prevalence of diarrheas is calculated by multiplying the severity score by the number of days with symptoms and dividing by the number of affected animals (Rozil lizard et al 2002).

Analytical methods

The analyzes of commercial diet and carob pods had been done in the laboratory of animal production of the university. Methods of the AOAC (2000) were used to analyze DM (934.01), ash (967.05), CP (2001.11), starch (996.11) of the feed and carob pods. Ether extract was determined after acid-hydrolysis treatment (EC 1998). Dietary aNDFom (without sodium sulphite), and ADFom were sequentially determined using the filter bag system (Ankom Technology, New York) according to Mertens et al (2002) and AOAC procedure (2000, 973.187). The gross energy was measured with an adiabatic bomb calorimeter.

Statistical analysis

The results obtained were analyzed as a completely randomized design in which the main sources of variation were the type of diets, using the General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of SAS (Statistical System Institute Inc., Cary, NC). The rabbit was used as the experimental unit in the analyses of growth performances and health status. For mortality we use analyze of variance considering rabbit alive with 0 and rabbit dead with 1 (Colin et al 2007).


Diets composition

The commercial diet is formulated to meet the nutritive requirements for fattening rabbit according to De Blas and Mateos (2010) with 16.6 % of CP, 33.2 of NDF and 2403 kcal of gross energy. While the carob pods used in our experiment had low content in CP but a high level of NDF similar with those used by Gasmi-boubaker et al 2007.

Growth performances

During the whole period of the experiment we have seen that there is difference in performances between groups as it is shown in table 3. Rabbits fed carob pods alone showed the lower feed intake and growth rate in comparison with the other groups (P<0,001). However, the consumption of carob pods in the third group “CRM” was lower than the group received carob pods alone P<0,001. Nevertheless, animals fed commercial diet alone showed a high feed intake in comparison with the group “CRM” P<0,001. The addition of carob pods accompanied with the commercial diet in the third group “CRM” improve total feed intake of rabbits compared with the group “CM and CR” (6.1 kg vs 5.6 and 2.4 kg on average respectively P<0,001). The rabbits of the group “CRM” increase their daily weight gain in all the period of experiment while there is no difference in the final live weight of animals between the two groups (CM and CRM). Therefore, the carob pods alone showed the best feed conversion but the lowest weight at the final of the experiment.

Table 3. Effect of experimental diets on growth performances of rabbits between 30 and 72d of age

Expérimental diets1






N 2




Initial live weight, g






Final live weight, kg






Daily feed intake, g/d






Daily weight gain, g/d






Feed conversion, g/g






Feed intake

Commercial diet, Kg






Carob pods, Kg






Commercial diet + carob pods, Kg






Total feed intake, Kg






1 CM: commercial diet. CR:Carob pods alone. CRM: commercial diet + carob pods
2 N: number of animals finished the experiment
abc Means in the same row without common letter are different at P<0.05

Health status

Health status is showed in table 4. Experimental diets didn’t affect mortality rates in the whole period of the experiment. In the period post weaning between 30 and 40 days of age we have contested difference between groups in morbidity where we found a high number of animals affected by diarrhea in the first group “CM” (9 rabbits) compared with the second group “CR” (3rabbits) and the third group “CRM” (2 rabbits) from a total of 17 rabbits per group P= 0.03. These results tended to increase the health risk in this experiment for the group “CM” and “CR” in comparison with group “CRM” P= 0.07.Even if the environment of rearing was not perfectly respected with the absence of antibiotics but the diarrheas which are observed are of type 1 and 2. The duration of these diarrheas is high in the period after weaning about of 7 to 10 days.

Table 4. Effect of experimental diets on morbidity, mortality and diarheas in rabbits between 30 and 72 d of age

Experimental diets1










from 30 to 40 days





from 40 to 72 days





from 30 to 72 days





Mortality %

from 30 to 40 days





from 40 to 72 days





from 30 to 72 days





Health risque

from 30 to 40 days





from 40 to 72 days





from 30 to 72 days





Presence of diarhea from 30 to72 days %





abc Means in the same row without common letter are different at P<0.05


The target of this work was to evaluate the effect of the use of carob pods in rabbit’s nutrition in fattening period. The use of carob pods alone by the rabbits in all the fattening period don’t improve growth performances and reduced the growth rate because of the nutritive value of this later and the little quantity of feed intake in comparison with the commercial diet (P<0,001) according with the results obtained by Guemour (2010). The carob pods had a high level in tannins which are polysaccharides may reduce palatability and feed intake of animals as it is found in poultry (Bullard et Elias 1980). Other results about the use of carob in poultry show that tanins reduce the growth performances (Vohra et Kratzer 1964).However, in addition to their low level on protien content carob pod contain tannins that can act as antinutritional factors, and may reduce the digestibility of proteins in rabbits rations to lead to a lowly growth in acordance with stadies in pigs (Mariscal-Landin et al 2004).

Animals received only carob pods showed high feed intake of this later than the third group because animals in the third group have another feed which is the commercial diet , this result justify that rabbits accept carob as feed not only granulate feed. The addition of carob pods accompanied with the commercial diet in the third group “CRM” improve total feed intake of rabbits in all the experiment, maybe this is related with the effect that carob is rich in total sugars 48% - 56% (Petit and Pinilla 1995) which increase palatability of animals to feed.Teillet et al (2011) didn’t found any effect of the use of carob seed extract on the feed intake of rabbits in fattening period.However, the supplementation of the pigs feed with 6% of carob flower improve feed intake (+62 g/d) and growth rate (+40g/d) in comparison with control diets (lizardo R et al 2002). According with pevious stadies by Kotrotsios et al (2012) it is shown that the incorporation of carob at 75 g/kg and 100 g/kg increase body weight of pigs. At final we have found an increase in growth rate by rabbits received both of carob pods and commercial diet. Feed coversion was different between groups in contrast Kotrotsios et al (2012) didn’t found any difference in pigs.

The addition of carob pods accompanied with commercial diet for rabbits reduced mortality in weaning period in accordance with Teillet et al (2011) where he found a reduction in mortality rate when rabbits received carob seed extract. The most raison of mortality in rabbit’s farms is diarrheas and in our experiment we found a reduction of this later when we add carob pods to rabbits diets. Consequently, this situation helps to increase viability of animals at weaning. This effect may be explained by the level of mannanes (24.6% in carob seeds) (Dakia et al 2008) which have a beneficial effect on animal health as it is shown in piglets (Van Nevel et al 2005). Therefore, carob is rich in antioxidants to explain the favorable effect on animal health (Custodio et al 2011). Carob utilization in the experiment affect the prevalence of diarrheas in rabbits so it was found that carob is used to prevent diarrheas for its high level in tannins (Würsch 1987) and also utilized in babies against this problem (Loeb et al 1989).



This study was funded partially by the University of Ibn Khaldoun –Tiaret- Algeria, Laboratory for the reproduction of farm animals, Tiaret, (Algeria).


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Received 2 April 2019; Accepted 4 May 2019; Published 4 June 2019

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