Pituitary and ovarian hormones: is their plasma concentration affected by litter size in primiparous lactating rabbit does?





rabbit, doe, litter size, prolactin, progesterone, LH, productive performance


Genetic selection in commercial rabbit lines based on litter size has positively improved the number of kits suckling, presumably to weaning. Although it has been proven that the energetic balance of primiparous does is due to the need to satisfy pregnancy, lactation and growth requirements, litter size adjustment from 7 to 12 kits is applied as a routine in commercial rabbit farms. The suckling stimulus provokes a prolactin (PRL) secretion, which in turn can modulate the preovulatory release of luteinising hormone (LH) and, consequently, the ovulatory and productive responses of the does. This study aimed to determine if litter size of prolific primiparous rabbit does during lactation [Group HL, with high litter density (10-12 kits; n=21) and Group LL, with low litter density (7-9 kits; n=29)] influences plasma concentration of PRL. Blood samples from lactating does were taken weekly throughout lactation starting on day 4 post-partum, until day 32 post-partum, before and immediately after suckling. In addition, the does were re-inseminated after weaning (day 32 post-partum), and sampled at 0 and 60 min after induction of ovulation to determine whether litter size affected the peak of LH, progesterone (P4) concentrations and the main productive parameters of their second pregnancy. All hormones were determined by enzyme immunoassay. Statistical analysis of the results revealed that the PRL concentrations of hyperprolific rabbit does before and immediately after a suckling stimulus from 7-9 or 10-12 kits were significanltly different, as we only detected basal levels, with a rise after weaning in both groups. More studies are necessary, delaying blood sampling to later periods of time after the suckling stimulus, in order to conclude whether the peak release of this hormone is altered or not. There were also no differences in plasma LH and progesterone levels after artificial insemination, or in productive performance of these females after their second pregnancy. In conclusion, the litter size adjustment of prolific primiparous rabbits with 7 to 12 kits determines adequate pituitary, ovarian and reproductive responses at second parturition if the does are inseminated after weaning.


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Author Biographies

Carlota Fernández-Pacheco, Complutense University of Madrid

Department of Physiology, Veterinary Faculty

Pilar Millán, Complutense University of Madrid

Department of Physiology, Veterinary Faculty

María Rodríguez, Polytechnic University of Madrid

Department of Agrarian Production, ETSIAAB, Polytechnic University of Madrid

Department of R+D & projects, PigCHAMP Pro Europa S.L.

Nora Formoso-Rafferty, Polytechnic University of Madrid

Department of Agrarian Production, ETSIAAB

Beatriz Velasco, Polytechnic University of Madrid

Department of Agrarian Production, ETSIAAB

Pilar G. Rebollar, Polytechnic University of Madrid

Department of Agrarian Production, ETSIAAB


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