A 24 week feeding trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of replacing a portion of protein requirement of grasscutters with urea on growth performance, carcass characteristics and microbial composition of the caecum. In all, forty grassscutters of age 3- months old were used. There were four dietary treatments with ten replicates in a randomised complete block design. The treatments were; control (U0%-P) which had protein from plant sources only. Treatment 2 (U30%-P) had 70% plant protein and 30% urea, Treatment 3 (U25%-P) had 75% protein from plants and 25% from urea and Treatment 4 (U0%-AP) had 10% protein from animal source and 90% from plant source. Parameters measured included, feed intake, feed wastage, carcass characteristics, caecal pH and caecal microbial composition and meat quality. The data collected was subjected to the analysis of variance with SAS (2008) and significant difference separated at 5% level. The results obtained showed that daily feed intake, feed wastage, and feed conversion ratio were not significantly different (P > 0.05) among dietary treatments. However, daily feed wastage was higher than feed intake. Daily weight gain 9.82, 9.70, 9.27 and 10.9 g/day respectively for U0%-P, U30%-P, U25%-P and U0%-AP was not significantly (P > 0.05) different among dietary treatments. The protein, fat and moisture content of the meat were influenced by urea supplementation. Dressing percentage was significantly (P < 0.05) influenced by dietary treatments but weight of organs to body weight did not differ significantly (P > 0.05). Caecal pH ranged from 5.9 - 6.0 and was not significantly (P > 0.05) influenced by urea supplementation. Microbes observed in the caecum were mainly Bacillus sp. Protein and fat content of the meat was influenced (P < 0.05) by dietary treatments but not pH. Urea supplementation of U30%-P and U25%-P reduced the variable cost by 31 to 44% and 36 to 48% respectively making the use of urea economical in the diet of grasscutters. It was concluded that urea can be used in grasscutters diet without any deleterious effects on their general performance or carcass characteristics but renders the production more economical.
Key words: Urea supplementation, grasscutters, plant protein, caecal pH, caecal microbes.
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