Effects of stocking density on growth and skin quality of grower Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus)

Author: E.C. Webb, D.M. Veldsman, J.G. Myburgh & G.E. Swan
Year: 2021
Issue: 2
Volume: 51
Page: 142 - 150

Intensive Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) farming operates with considerable variation in housing and stocking density. In this study, current commercial stocking densities for crocodilians were investigated using 261 grower-phase crocodiles (15 months old, average total body length 94.5 cm, and average weight 2.7 kg). Low (2.60 m2 per crocodile), medium (1.24 m2 per crocodile), and high (0.41 m2 per crocodile) stocking densities were tested. Growth, morphometric measures, Fulton’s condition scores and skin qualities were assessed over a six-month (May – November 2017) period. High stocking density had no adverse effects on the growth of grower Nile crocodiles. Crocodiles stocked at medium and high densities outperformed those that were stocked at low density in Fulton’s body condition scores, change in body condition from the start to the end of the trial, and feed conversion efficiencies. However, the high and, to a lesser extent, the medium stocking densities resulted in lower skin quality scores compared with those in the low-density treatment because of teeth marks from more aggressive behaviour. The results indicated that the medium pen density treatment is closer to the ideal than either the high or low stocking density groups. Stocking densities that provide 0.41 m2 per crocodile or less should be avoided because of lower skin quality scores, which weigh more heavily than growth and feed efficiency responses in the financial viability of commercial crocodile farming in typical South African production systems.

Keywords: commercial farming, exotic leather, feed efficiency, Fulton’s condition score, pen density
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